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

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.

Restaurant review

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

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

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

Everett Bumstead (centre) and his crew share a picture from a tree planting location in Sayward on Vancouver Island from when they were filming for ‘One Million Trees’ last year. Photo courtesy Everett Bumstead.
The tree planting life on Vancouver Island features in new documentary

Everett Bumstead brings forth the technicalities, psychology and politics of the tree planting industry in his movie

Scaredy Cats television series has turned Empress Avenue in Fernwood into a Halloween themed neighbourhood. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
PHOTOS: Trick or treat! Halloween comes to Fernwood in January

New television series Scaredy Cats filming in Victoria

Cindy Foggit plays the lead role of Eliza in Passion and Performance’s film production Eliza: An Adaption of a Christmas Carol. (Courtesy of Rachel Paish)
Victoria adult dance studio releases modern adaption of A Christmas Carol

Instead of usual stage performance, dance studio turns to film

Juno-winning Toronto dub poet Lillian Allen is VIU’s Gustafson Distinguished Poet for 2021. (Photo courtesy Karen Lee)
Juno-winning dub poet is VIU’s Gustafson Distinguished Poet this year

Lillian Allen will present online lecture, reading and Q-and-A

James Summer, the City of Victoria’s new youth poet laureate. (Courtesy City of Victoria)
Slam poetry expert introduced as Victoria’s new youth poet laureate

Vic High alum James Summer will serve in the role for 2021

There are many options for enjoying a meal out locally during Dine Around and Stay in Town, on now through Feb. 7. (10 Acres Commons)
Dine Around Stay in Town Victoria carries added importance during pandemic

Special menu items for eat in or takeout/delivery, staycation deals available through Feb. 7

Peter Crema and Harmony Gray (from left), past participants of the Nanaimo Art Gallery’s Code Switching teen art group, at work in ArtLab in 2019. The NAG will be expanding the space thanks to a $75,000 arts infrastructure program grant. (Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo Art Gallery, Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre receive new arts infrastructure funding

Province announces recipients of funding through B.C. Arts Council program

Ty Wesley, Nicole Darlington and Cameron Macaulay (from left) performed in the Beholder Entertainment production <em>Gender Sucks!</em> in the 2020 Nanaimo Fringe Festival. (Video still courtesy Sam Wharram)
Nanaimo Fringe Festival artist lottery open to local and B.C. playwrights

Organizers hope to stage plays in-person at indoor and outdoor venues this summer

Canadian singer-songwriter-actor Joëlle Rabu will join her son, Nico Rhoades, for a livestream performance courtesy the Tidemark Theatre Jan. 29. Photo submitted
Mother/son powerhouses Joelle Rabu and Nico Rhodes join forces for Island livestream

Campbell River’s Tidemark Theatre hosts online music revue

Dr. John Hooper is the new conductor of Island Voices. Photo supplied
Island Voices welcomes new conductor

Dr. John Hooper to lead mid-Island based choir

Jorie Benjamin does a modern dance performance to ‘La Vie en rose’ by Édith Piaf, Louis Gugliemi and Marguerite Monnot, choreographed by Elise Sampson during the Cowichan Music Festival’s Highlights Concert at the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre on March 1, 2020. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Cowichan Music Festival cancelled for 2021

The festival had already been limited to solo performances only for 2021

Most Read