Akâdi brings West African food to Portland

Spices from scratch, sauces from scratch, slow-cooked goat and whole-fried tilapia: Akâdi, which means “tasty” in Bambara (a Mali-originated language), is a restaurant in Portland’s Albina district that lives up to its name by serving homemade West African food from chef-owner Fatou Ouattara’s native Bouaké, Ivory Coast.

Ouattara, who immigrated to the U.S. to attend Portland State University, got her start in the Portland food scene by catering and serving Akâdi-style food at Saturday Market. Her supporters encouraged her to open a West African restaurant, and in September 2017, Ouattara opened Akâdi with her now-fiancé, George Faux, in the Albina neighborhood.

Ouattara said she chose Portland’s historically black neighborhood because she thought that these Portlanders would be “more accepting” of her cuisine.

“But it turned out not to be true,” Ouattara said. “I was so wrong because our customers are not only black or Africans — it’s actually everyone who loves the food.”

Ouattara grew up cooking with her family, but she “hated every minute of it” because her mother and grandmother would hover over her, watching her every move. But learning her way around an Ivorian kitchen has proven invaluable, as she uses those same techniques to run her restaurant and create her own spices.

“Back then … it was an annoyance, (but) now it’s like an enjoyment,” she said. “Every time I do it, it takes me back to those times we spent together learning how to cook this food and really celebrate our culture.”

Ouattara’s goal is to expand the Akâdi brand to more restaurants in the Portland metro area. “I want everyone to at least try this kind of food and get out of their comfort zone at least once in their lifetime,” she said. “They won’t regret it.”