Now, a plant-based restaurant in Los Angeles is nothing new. But a plant-based restaurant by Overthrow Hospitality’s Shenarri Freeman certainly is: the young chef behind New York’s Cadence has become a bonafide rising star in the culinary world after nabbing a James Beard nomination for Best New Chef in 2022. So for Ubuntu, her latest project in West Hollywood opening August 1, it’s best to have your Resy app ready.
“Ubuntu,” which roughly means “humanity” in Zulu, is Freeman’s vegan take on West African cuisine. Think jollof arancini with curry, tomato, and miso as well as jackfruit yassa (a spin on a Senegalese dish made with caramelized onions, lemon, and a mixture of spices). For dessert, diners have their choice between a plantain cardamom tart and puff puff bread with pineapple ginger chutney.
Freeman was inspired to develop a West African menu after spending time in Lagos, Accra, and Dakar. While dining there, she was struck at how much their offerings resembled those she ate growing up in Richmond, Virginia, including the use of rice, okra, beans, and cornmeal. (Indeed, the two cuisines are very much connected across the African diaspora, with many soul food recipes having their roots in traditional African recipes.) “Learning the history of Southern cuisine and how it relates back to West Africa—it was a very interesting concept for both a restaurant and me as an individual,” Freeman tells Vogue. On Sundays, Ubuntu will offer a soul-food menu from Ubuntu’s sister restaurant, Cadence, to educate diners through eating. “I want people to be able to connect the dots between different cuisines and different regions of the world,” she says.