Anthony Bourdain in Madagascar: 5 Spots Where Tony Ate

Think of Madagascar, and you’ll likely think of dancing lemurs and an exotic, unspoiled paradise. The reality, however, is somewhat different, as Anthony Bourdain discovers during his visit to the island 400km off the east coast of Africa.

Anthony Bourdain visited Madagascar to film season 5 (episode 4) of Parts Unknown; it was his only visit to the country. Joining Tony on this trip is filmmaker Darren Aronofsky, director of films such Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, Black Swan, and – appropriately enough given the weather for some of this trip – Noah.

Anthony Bourdain in Madagascar Hero

If you’re planning a trip to Madagascar or are just curious about all the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Madagascar, you’ve come to the right place. Below you’ll find a breakdown of all the spots Tony ate in Madagascar as well as what he ate. Let this be a guide to help you dive deep into the culture of Madagascar. 

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The Parts Unknown episode is available on Amazon or Apple TV.

Look’s Chez Ramasy (Antananarivo)

Beginning their journey in the capital of Antananarivo, or Tana for short, they find a chaotic and crowded city with crumbling architecture and a sporadic power supply to match. With Darren being a vegetarian, Tony passive-aggressively chooses a restaurant specializing in pork.

Here, the house specialty is chopped roasted pig head, served with beans, rice, and the boiled leaves of the manioc plant, better known as cassava, as the rain pours outside, and the lights flicker intermittently.

Chez Mariette (Antananarivo)

Anthony Bourdain in Madagascar - Curried Beans & Carrots

For the next stop, Bourdain visits a remnant of colonial finery, Chez Mariette. Eponymously named after chef Mariette Andrianjaka, dishes are served in a traditional French cuisine style as befits Mariette’s formal training working under the late Michelin three-star luminary Charles Barrier in France.

With no fixed menu, the dishes come based on the whim of the kitchen. For this visit, there is goose with shredded meat stuffing, chicken and ginger broth, rice, and vegetable lasary, a side salad of curried vegetables served hot, consisting of carrot and string beans amongst others.

Local Village (Ranomafana National Park)

Anthony Bourdain in Madagascar - Zebu Skewers

Heading south from Tana to a part of the country where the ability to grow rice is the difference between life and death, Tony meets with Dr. Patricia Wright to go looking for the golden and greater bamboo lemurs.

After spotting the decidedly non-dancing primates, they visit a village of Tanala people, located in the national park, who have been displaced multiple times by slash-and-burn farming methods. All is not lost, however, as a ceremony is taking place to celebrate 17 of the villagers donating their land to the conservation park.

This of course means a sacrifice, and the unfortunate animal this time around is a zebu, a breed of cattle known for a large hump across their shoulders. After the animal is killed, as part of the ceremony the meat is boiled, chopped, and served in large leaves with the cooking liquid poured over a rudimentary sauce. There is also a very strong, very delicious, local rice wine known as toaka gasy, served with a fresh honey chaser.

Unknown Town (Fianarantsoa East Coast Train Line)

Aboard the crumbling remnants of the French-built rail network, Bourdain and Aronofsky embark on a bone-rattling 160km journey to the one-time major port town of Manakara. For the majority of the 17 station stops along the line, the train is a vital connection to the outside world providing food and supplies. Snacks of peanuts and other food are sold trackside at each stop, while in first class, Tony and Darren crack open a bottle of champagne, and enjoy cocktails with freshly made lychee puree.

The need for a more substantive meal takes over, and with stomachs rumbling they alight briefly at what is believed to be a more dedicated food stop. Sadly, this is not to be, however, as by the time they arrive at the station, all the main food had been eaten, except for fruit and a handful of fried pastries, which they distribute to the crowd of children on the station platform.

Private Meal (Manakara)

Anthony Bourdain in Madagascar - Grilled Spiny Lobster

Arriving in Manakara, now a sleepy beach town, Bourdain gazes at the view out across the crashing waves: “this is what it’s like to wake up at the end of the world, nothing to the east but thousands of miles of Indian Ocean.”

With the fisherman returning with their morning catch, there is a broad selection of food on offer, more than enough to satiate after the hungry train journey to reach the coast.

Giant spiny lobsters are grilled over an open flame and are served with an accompaniment of a typical stew dish consisting of green leaves, eggplant, some spices, and chunks of zebu meat, all cooked until tender. There are also more stewed vegetables for Aronofsky, together with baby shark fried with onion and tomatoes, and a papaya salad.

Bellies full, the impromptu village feast progresses to music and dancing, as the sun dips below the horizon, and the two reflect over that “We all for a little while forget where we came from, and where we might be tomorrow”.

Have any questions Have any other questions about the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Madagascar or how to visit them? Let me know in the comments below!

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Matt Young is a street food fanatic and world traveler, currently splitting his time between Europe and South East Asia.

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