Raissa and Mathieu Doumbia, a married couple originally from the West African nation of Ivory Coast, recently opened House of Seasoning Grill on Seymour St. 117, the site of the former Friends Grille.
The eatery offers African American fare, with dishes leaning more towards African than traditional African American fare. Entrees feature well-known American staples such as steak, chicken, pork, and fish, but seasoned with African ingredients.
“It’s going to be the same food, the same chicken, the same burger,” Mathieu Doumbia said. “But the difference is in the spices. When you try it, something new comes in. When you open the chicken, you can see the spices in the chicken.”
How do they combine these kitchens?
“It’s a little secret,” said Mathieu Doumbia with a smile.
The ingredients in the seasonings are not on the menu, but common West African seasonings include curry powder, black pepper, stock, thyme, chili peppers, Cameroon pepper, and nutmeg.
Entrees at House of Seasoning Grill include dishes such as Choukouya de Poulet, African-style marinated chicken with special spices. Choukouya is a word from an African dialect spoken in northern Côte d’Ivoire that means grilled or stewed meat. Poulet is the French word for chicken.
The menu includes peanut butter soup with white rice, attic poisson (fried fish); gigot, which is barbecued lamb with green sauce and onions; and attic croupion, grilled turkey tails with tomato sauce.
Appetizers include traditional American dishes such as chicken wings and chicken and beef kebab sandwiches.
“It’s a combination of both foods,” Raissa Doumbia said.
She said the eatery’s African dishes come from family recipes and that she had her own restaurant in the Ivory Coast before the couple came to the United States eight years ago. They originally lived in New York City, where Raissa Doumbia worked in restaurants. They came to Pittsfield in 2017, which has a significant West African population. The cafeteria has four employees. The couple spent about $70,000 renovating the space.
“When we moved to Pittsfield, we liked that there were a lot of restaurants,” says Raissa Doumbia. “But it was the same food without any change. When you go out, the food isn’t always the way you want it. So we tried to bring something new. It’s a new flavor for the city.”