ALLAN REID: Unearthing the region’s latest low-key restaurant gem

Le Petit Dakar in Esquimalt offers up homemade Senegalese comfort food

Victorians are accustomed to finding the best places to eat in the shabbiest holes in the wall. As a reviewer, I’ve had a blast digging up hidden gems: the Saltchuck Pie Company, Wheelies Motorcycle Café and last month’s Chuck’s Burger Bar.

This month I met Bintou, the Senegalese owner of Le Petit Dakar near the corner of Esquimalt Road and Head Street.

Bintou grew up in Dakar, but has lived in Victoria 17 years. She beams with pride when discussing her food, which is exotic, but comfortable. It is, after all, her comfort food and she makes almost everything in house. If she needs mint syrup, she makes mint syrup. I am always impressed when restaurateurs make their own ingredients, especially for inexpensive food.

I ordered Black Bean Ragout ($8.95) with Fonio ($4) and two Samosas (Beef and Vegetarian, $2 each). The samosas are hand-wrapped pockets of pastry fried golden, both filled to bursting. One with ground beef, peas, corn, red pepper, onion and carrot; the other – my favourite – loaded with soft sweet potato with raisins and a mild spice.

Think of ragout as the West African version of baked beans. A mild heat livens the natural earthy, nutty flavour of the beans, which Bintou poured around a mound of fonio, a West African quinoa with a much finer grain. It reminds me of a fine and dry couscous, which is an alternative option if fonio does not appeal. By itself, fonio is a little nutty and fairly bland, but when mixed with the saucy ragout, its starch adds a satisfying heartiness that balances the dish.

Le Petit Dakar advertises as a take-out restaurant and most of Bintou’s business does walk out the door, but there are three wooden tables set before large plate glass windows. Service is cafeteria style, but it is best to order from the menu board on which each dish, mostly with Senegalese names, is explained. Of course, Bintou is happy to describe her food and make suggestions.

And if you happen to enjoy that fonio, buy a package, for Le Petit Dakar carries an assortment of African grains, herbs and sauces. Bintou will even explain how to cook it.

Le Petit Dakar is open noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, and 4 to 8 p.m. Monday.

 

The Black Bean Ragout at Le Petit Dakar in Esquimalt provides a satisfying part of one’s food experience there, writes Monday’s food columnist. Photo by Allan Reid

Just Posted

Canada’s country music sweetheart brings The Gumboot Kids to town

Jessie Farrell to perform songs from her hit CBC TV series at McTavish Academy of Arts

VIFF wrap-up: Finely crafted films part of festival finale

Monday reviewer Kyle Wells puts a cap on his 2018 Vancouver International Film Festival experience

FILM REVIEWS: Race relations, refugees and racy romances featured at VIFF

Monday reviewer Kyle Wells presents round 2 from the Vancouver International Film Fest

An eye for art: The new and the notable at fall’s premier arts event

Sidney Fine Art Show shares wealth of Island talent Oct. 11 to 13

Astrocolor bringing unique funk-synth sound to the Capital Ballroom

Victoria band known for their festival shows making a rare appearance on their home turf

VIDEO: Ballet Kelowna brings steamy story, A Streetcar Named Desire, to Island

Okanagan ballet company brings a classic tale to the Cowichan Valley

INDY FILM FARE: 1970s hedonism and more at The Vic Theatre

From Studio 54 to Rocky Horror, there’s plenty of excess to observe this month

Shark-attack metal band coming to Victoria tonight

Shark Infested Daughters, a Calgary metalcore group, play the Upstairs Cabaret tonight, Oct. 13

STAGE AND SONG: Spotlight on Victoria arts groups

Learn about some of the city’s favourite theatre and musical entertainment options

Island lensman Jim Decker lands three top photography awards

During exciting photo trip to Yap in Micronesia, Cobble Hill man earns trio of firsts

Celebrate Oktoberfest Stein and Dine at the Victoria Public Market

Food, suds and German-style fun on tap at Oct. 20 event

Most Read