Zanzibar Café (Saint-Denis, Réunion, France)

Well, after a half-day of wandering around exploring the fairly unique town of Saint-Denis (I’m still trying to figure out why Réunion has such an unusually large number of insurance brokers and eyeglass shops… are there some weird niches in French insurance law and health care at play here?), it was time for dinner. One place we passed by that looked quite delicious was Zanzibar Café, located on Rue Pasteur a few blocks from our hotel.

While the mainstay of Réunion cuisine is the island-specific carri served most anywhere, there’s also a lot of direct French influence in the food as well; you’ll also find patisseries, cafés, brasseries, charcuteries, and other mainstays of French culinary tradition all over the island (indeed, we stopped at many a fine patisserie located up in the hills kilometers from the cities). Zanzibar is a pretty good example of this: the menu at Zanzibar is basically your standard French cafe menu (steak frites, French chicken dishes, French-style sausages), alongside a rather nice assortment of Malagasy and African dishes.

This is probably a place to mention that, like mainland France, Réunion really embraces charcuterie, with a substantial number of even the smaller villages on the island having a charcuterie that makes their own sausages on-site, with two of the most popular being the local smoked sausage (simply called “saucisse fumée”, although the resulting product is also quite spicy), and andouillette. Most Americans aren’t really familiar with andouillette, but may be familiar with the related, more mainstream andouille sausage; andouillette is a sausage made from pork chitterlings, typically spiced and rolled up to fill the casing. Seeing that andouillete was one of the specials, I decided to try it out, served up with a classic French mustard sauce.

Carol, meanwhile, isn’t particularly a fan of chitterlings or tripe, so she opted for a simple chicken in cream sauce.

But, of course, we started with some rhum arrangé, starting off with a nice pair of pineapple and vanilla rhums arrangés. This is one of the classic combinations available on the island (with pineapple and vanilla both being plentiful and relatively cheap), and it works well as both a light aperitif at the beginning of the meal, and a palate cleanser at the end of the meal.

But we soon had our main courses (for the remainder of my Reunion and France reviews, I promise to be careful to avoid the odd American usage of “entrée”). I was rather pleased with my andouillette. A good andouillette is rather a hard sausage to master, since you are starting with the fairly gamey chitterlings, and you have to turn those into a sausage without enhancing that factor. But I rather enjoyed it, the sausage had a nice but not overwhelming game flavor, a rich meaty flavor, and a pleasant mix of onion, garlic, pepper, and herbs. Served up in a nicely seared casing with a still moist interior, I rather enjoyed it, even if the aroma was a bit strong (admittedly, Carol was not, after trying it she declared it “too gamey”). Add in some perfectly done frites and a nice mustard sauce, and this was a fine little meal.

Carol was basically pleased but not overwhelmed with her chicken in cream sauce, since, compared to a lot of other dishes we had eaten recently, it was basically that: chicken in a lighter cream sauce. Not bad, but not terribly exciting. But she did say the cream sauce did nicely cleanse her mouth of the taste from the andouillete, and then we retired to Cafe Eduoard across town for a few more Dodos under the nice evening skies.

Overall, I rather liked Zanzibar, and particularly enjoyed my andouillete. It’s an acquired taste, for sure, but for someone like me that likes some of the more adventuresome sausages out there, I thought it was quite good.

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