Last month, we brought you a review of West African Way in Plano, where chef-owner Sulayman Jeng cooks up traditional meals from The Gambia and Senegal. But as the review went to press, Jeng told us exciting news: he was bringing on a new chef who would double the menu’s length and expand its reach.
Stephanie Tiero comes from Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire), so her arrival as co-chef means the restaurant serves foods from across a 1,000-mile stretch of West African shoreline. Tiero’s side of the menu features seafood favorites including whole tilapia, croaker, and tuna. If you want to visit and try her food, the main question you have to consider is: chargrilled fish, or fried?
We tried both.
First came an unusual appetizer: puff-puff, the African cousin to beignets, gently sweet golden dough balls.
Grilled whole tilapia hit our table next. The fish was nearly blackened with char from its time on the grill, with super-tender flesh. On top, from cheek to tail, a savory relish of tomatoes, onions, and spices added layers of flavor. We devoured it with the kind of enthusiasm that you should not show when you have another whole fish coming.
The fried fish had perfectly crisped-up skin, lightly golden around the edges—a delight to snack on. When I pressed down with my fork, little bits of grease seeped out. I didn’t mind. To keep the fried fish’s texture intact, the onion-veggie sauce is served on the side.
Both fish dishes also come with a hot sauce served in their own little bowl. Bright orange and not very threatening looking, this sauce has tremendous flavor and a punch of heat. Its function—you should add a small dab to your fork with each bite to brighten up all the dish’s flavors—is similar to the way that you should eat Jeng’s redder hot sauce on his Gambian menu.
Tiero has more specialties on offer, including egusi soup, one of western Africa’s most famous dishes, which folds meat into a creamy, nutty broth made from ground-up melon seeds. She serves terrific, not-too-sweet fried plantains alongside her grilled fish.
Although West African Way now has twice the cooks and twice the menu, it is still a true slow food experience. Everything is prepped from scratch to order, so you can wait an hour or more for your grilled fish. My best advice is to call in your order ahead of time, whether you’re dining in or grabbing takeout. You can schedule an order by telling the restaurant when you’ll be in. If you haven’t called ahead, take up a booth near the TV, order appetizers, and watch live concert tapes of classic African bands.
However you choose to dine here, the restaurant now lives up to its expansive name even more than it did before. It’s a true highlight reel of classical West African cooking.
West African Way, 1405 Jupiter Rd., Ste. 116, Plano