A few years ago, Pierre Thiam packed up his two restaurants in Brooklyn and headed to his home continent where he hoped to elevate West African street food to gourmet status. The result is Nok by Alara in Lagos, Nigeria, a restaurant whose celebratory feel is informed by both its hip ambience and its new takes on regional staples.
Mr. Thiam, who is from Senegal, clearly enjoys bringing West African tastes to the rest of the world. “I was hoping to show that African food can be elevated and presented in a contemporary setting without losing its identity,” he said about the food at Nok, which is best described as familiar tastes, but with refreshing twists.
Too often, restaurants in West Africa cater to an upscale clientele by recreating American or European favorites — and offering the same single dish or two that hints at their own region’s specialties. Sometimes the local fare is neglected altogether.
Nok, which opened in late 2015, is in the city’s posh Victoria Island area, tucked behind a furniture store full of chairs, tables and other objects from African designers, mostly from the shop. Reni Folawiyo, who owns both Nok and the store, envisioned an integrated shop and restaurant that amount to a greatest hits of food and designs from across the region.