African Fish

by Katya Simkhovich

Of all the favorite foods I thought I’d be favoring in France, the food I least expected to leave the strongest impression was a fish. That was, until I ate this fish.

The impression it proceeded to leave upon me was unparalleled to that of any fish I have ever eaten before.  And this was not only because it was ridiculously delicious, but also because this special meal was served by an accommodating and friendly couple, shared in magnificent company, and we felt as if we were dining upon hidden treasure.

Based on the lack of customers on a Saturday night, I couldn’t help but be surprised this place was still in business.  But then again, based on the deliciousness of the food and the friendliness of the proprietors, I couldn’t help but be surprised that there wasn’t a line of people out the door.  So as a general consensus, I was surprised concerning all aspects of this business which epitomized the concept of a hidden gem.

As another general consensus, this was seriously one of the best meals of my life thus far.  And therefore, it deserves a thorough recounting.  An explanation of how we ended up at this inconspicuous african restaurant is in order.  Two weeks into our stay in Nice, we met a girl from sweden at school and she invited us to eat delicious fish.  Of course, we agreed to go.  She had been first introduced to the restaurant by an african guy who had attended the school earlier, and now the recommendation was being taken up by six new people (me and my travel companion, and four other students from the school).  That Friday night, now what seems so long ago, was a revolutionary fish and dining experience and I admonished myself for not bringing my camera.  I promised myself I would return and take an obscene amount of pictures.

This past Saturday, I did just that.  Weeks after that first dinner we returned as a slightly different group of six, composed of some of the funniest, friendliest, and kindest people who I’m so happy to call my friends.  The proprietress recognized us and greeted us with friendly acknowledgment.  Of course, we’d all be having the fish.  In addition we ordered a bottle of each red and white wine.  This was going to be a good dinner.

We were served a drink on the house, of which I can’t remember the name now, but that was like a sweet, pink, ginger juice.  In fact, it was sweet, pink, ginger juice.  And it was delicious.

What followed was an unnecessary amount of picture taking, laughter, knife fighting, fork intervention, more laughter, some more picture taking, peanut snacking, and before we knew it the time to eat fish had arrived.

We descended upon each of our fish, frantically picking apart the tender white flesh from bone, savoring each bite of crispy skin, devouring everything from head to tail.  Literally.  Turns out fish tails are like a crispy fish chip.  And fish eyes taste… well, fishy.  The mountain of salsa served atop the fish was fantastically fresh and ever so perfectly spiced.  And the three accompaniments (rice, some unidentified but delicious grain-like stuff, and plantains) formed a delicious sort of love square between themselves and the fish.  Oh and if you were wondering what kind of fish it was, all I can tell you is that it was fish of the delicious sort.  I was too busy enjoying it to bother to ask.

Likewise, I’ve been too busy enjoying the company of the friends we’ve made here to think about the fact that we depart Nice this Saturday.  I’m anticipating that we’ll be busy seeing the sights we haven’t yet seen, eating the things we haven’t yet eaten, destroying what’s left of our livers, and seeing the most of the people we’ve come to love in the next few days leading up to our fated day of departure.  So, I’d like to bid you a bittersweet farewell, Nice.  May we meet again one day (not too far in the future).  And thanks for the fish.

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