It has been a year. In that year many favorites have been unable to make it. Many more are struggling. The expansion of ghost kitchens seems to be a route that food is taking, as the monied set orders delivery every night of their retched lives. But one silver lining to these dark clouds is that a growing number of rental commercial kitchen spaces are also being used by a small group of chefs who may have never had a shot in the standard restaurant economy.
You remember Bobyrobson Saloman and his delicious Haitian food right? And now the whole city seems to be enjoying the Bajan treats of Rashida Holmes. Both are introducing cuisines that Los Angeles is starving for, and they are far from alone. But unless you had plans to visit Fall River, Massachusetts or cross the Atlantic Ocean, you probably were not going to be having any food from Cape Verde.
That is until of course March of 2021, in North Hollywood as the food of Cape Verde is here in the form of Cape Green. When genres are assigned, Cape Verdean cuisine often times gets lumped into West Africa, and this is not completely wrong as the islands that make up the nation are off the westernmost tip of continental Africa near Sénégal.
But more so than its mainland neighbors, the foods have been influenced by Portuguese occupation up until 1975, and some of the other nations in the Lusophone world. You may immediately see the resemblance with some regional Brazilian cooking styles, but those stories of food evolution and influence are very similar to the ones here after all. Brazil owes many of its most delicious foods to those that were forced to come from their homes in Africa.
So what will you find when you roll up to this dusty industrial stretch of Saticoy Street in North Hollywood? For now the business is considered to be in their soft opening, with the limited hours that come along with it. Follow their Instagram page for updates, and also to see just how many Cape Verdeans there are in southern California that are driving ridiculous distances to come and enjoy the food they miss so much.
Start off with bolinhas de bacalhau ($12, above), small balls of shredded salted cod and potato that are surprisingly spongy and delightful to pop one after another. After one dip in the accompanying white cream sauce, the appetizer was found to be more enjoyable on its own with plenty of spicing to enjoy inside the fried shell.
In a similar vein are the rectangular pastel de atum ($11, above), a fried turnover made with tuna imported from Cape Verde. These steamed a bit in the takeout box, but are much better at home if you throw them in the air fryer for a bit or at least the oven to get some of the crispiness back.
Eating these by the sea, maybe with a bottle of homemade grogue, is where you mind goes on the first bite. These should not be missed.
You will also want to try katxupa ($18, above), the national dish of Cape Verde and one of the only items you may find on a modern menu here and there. This is the spelling in Cape Verdean creole, the oldest still spoken creole language in the world! Often you will see it spelled cachupa in Portuguese.
The stew is made up of at least two types of beans, hominy, cassava, sweet potatoes, collard greens and cabbage, and that is before adding chorizo, pork ribs and belly, and Portuguese linguiça. As you can imagine, it is a hearty dish and the portion could fill up just about any one person.
Under the soup section of the menu, but also thick and hearty is the cozy canja ($11, above), which promises and delivers a Cape Verdean-style chicken soup. Combined with rice and carrots as well, the celery has the most distinct notes along with cuts of boneless dark meat. In the broth itself, it tastes like there is garlic, onions, and tomatoes.
It really feels like the ultimate bowl of comfort food, and you can imagine it eaten in settings that require such nourishment. The full order also came with a neon red sauce that had the slight spice of chili oil but also tastes sweet. It was not quite understood what this was for, but you could probably add it to this soup if you wanted to give it a bit of zing.
Cape Green, 13346 Saticoy Street, North Hollywood