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

B.C. Farmers’ Market Trail a one-stop virtual guide to the goods

New website assembles, profiles 145+ farmers’ markets throughout B.C.

Victoria’s little free libraries get 5,000th book

Volunteers have been dropping off books around Greater Victoria since 2017

PHOTOS: Tour de Victoria takes off

1,800 cyclists took off in the Ryder Hesjedal’s Tour de Victoria for a city-wide loop

Local and international artists paint murals across Victoria

Sixteen murals are spread out across downtown Victoria as part of the ‘concrete canvas’ project

Pet-A-Palooza a good reason to ‘pawse’ this weekend in Victoria

Puppies, goats, wiener dog races and more on the grounds of St. Ann’s Academy Aug. 18-19

Updated: ‘Queen of Soul’ Aretha Franklin has died

Publicist Gwendolyn Quinn reports Franklin passed Thursday at 9:50 a.m. at her home in Detroit

Art and music will fill Saanich’s Gardens at HCP

Horticulture Centre of the Pacific hosts 24th annual Arts and Music in the Gardens Aug. 25 and 26

REVIEW: Ever wanted to be young again? Theatre Skam’s Concord Floral will make you think again

Strong acting in an interesting theatre space, writes Sheila Martindale

Brad Pitt says he has given Jolie Pitt millions since split

Actor Brad Pitt denies Angelina Jolie Pitt’s claim that he has paid no meaningful child support.

WINE LOVERS UNITE: Victoria festival offers numerous tasting options

Parkside Hotel and Spa hosting Victoria International Wine Festival

5 things to do in Greater Victoria this weekend

Check out dragon Boats, artists, football and more

Buskers ready to hit Victoria streets (and squares)

Downtown Victoria Busker Festival kicks off Aug. 30 at various sites

Most Read