Renowned Senegalese chef and culinary ambassador Pierre Thiam, last seen in these parts at Le Grand Dakar in Clinton Hill, has opened his first NYC restaurant since 2011, a vibrant fast-casual spot in East Harlem called Teranga. Located across Fifth Avenue from the Harlem Meer, Teranga—a Wolof word from Senegal meaning "hospitality"—has taken over the food and welcoming duties at the new Africa Center, a multi-disciplinary, nonprofit cultural center within the Robert A.M. Stern-designed building.

The space, right inside the main entrance on Fifth Avenue, is bright and alive with art and artifacts; the short menu filled with healthy West African treasures like baobab, moringa, and fonio, the supergrain championed by Thiam. Teranga sources its ingredients from organic, indigenous, and, when possible, climate change-resilient smallholder farms in Africa—Thiam believes these will play a large role in shaping the world’s future food supply chain. At the grand opening earlier this month the neighborhood turned out in force, and it seems likely Teranga will become a family-friendly staple in the area.

Teranga works like most of these build-a-bowl places: you select a base, a protein, a couple of sides, and a sauce. For the multiple-choice-averse among you, there are also three composed plates, anchored by either Roasted Salmon with Moroccan Spices, or Sweet and Tangy Grilled Chicken, or Red Palm Plantain Fufu. The latter is vegan, as is most everything here, and the entire menu is also gluten-free. Other options include Ndambe, a sweet potato and black-eyed pea stew; Liberian Ruby Red Rice; the peanut sauce Mafe; Kelewele, or spicy fried plantains; and Attieke, a fermented cassava couscous.

There are also a few snacks, which function more like desserts, such as Thiakry, a millet and yogurt mix topped with candied hibiscus, and Sombi, a coconut rice pudding with honey roasted mango. Coffees, available hot and iced, are all from Africa and, when the licensing comes through, Thiam hopes to do the same for Teranga's beers and wines. Juices like Bissap, Bouye, and Tamarind round out the beverage selections.

Seating at Teranga is plentiful and varied, from communal tables to cozy nooks. And, of course, Central Park across the street will beckon come spring. The bold, playful art that covers the restaurant's walls is by Nigerian-American Victor Ekpuk, the first of a series of African artists that will receive commissions for the space. Thiam also plans on actively partnering with Africa Center programming in the near future.

Teranga is located at 1280 Fifth Avenue, at the corner of 110th Street, and is open Tuesday through Sunday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Food service begins at 11:00 a.m. Closed Mondays. (