Last month, we brought you a review of West African Way in Plano, where chef-owner Sulayman Jeng prepares traditional dishes from The Gambia and Senegal. But as the review went to press, Jeng told us some exciting news: he was hiring a new chef who would double the length of the menu and expand its reach.
Stephanie Tiero is from Ivory Coast (Ivory Coast), so her arrival as co-chef means the restaurant serves dishes from a 1,000-mile stretch of West African coastline. Tiero’s side of the menu features seafood dishes including whole tilapia, croaker and tuna. If you want to visit and try its food, the main question you have to consider is: grilled or fried fish?
We have tried both.
First an unusual aperitif: the puff-puff, the African cousin of donuts, delicately sweet golden balls of dough.
The grilled whole tilapia then hit our table. The fish was almost blackened by the 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 you don’t have to show when you have another whole fish coming.
The fried fish had perfectly crispy skin, lightly browned around the edges – a delight to snack on. When I pressed down with my fork, small bits of fat escaped. I didn’t mind. To keep the texture of the fried fish intact, the onion-vegetarian sauce is served as an accompaniment.
Both fish dishes also come with a hot sauce served in their own little bowl. Bright orange and not overly threatening, this sauce packs a huge flavor punch and kick. Its function – you should add a small dab to your fork with each bite to liven up all the flavors of the dish – is similar to how you should eat Jeng’s redder hot sauce on his Gambian menu.
Tiero offers other specialties including egusi soup, one of West Africa’s most famous dishes, which turns meat into a creamy hazelnut broth made from crushed melon seeds. She serves excellent, not too sweet fried plantains alongside her grilled fish.
Although West African Way now has twice the cooks and twice the menus, it is still a true slow food experience. Everything is cooked from scratch to order, so you may be waiting an hour or more for your grilled fish. My best advice is to call your order ahead, whether you’re dining in or getting takeout. You can schedule an order by informing the restaurant of your arrival time. If you haven’t called ahead, sit by the TV, order appetizers, and watch live concert recordings of classic African bands.
However you choose to dine here, the restaurant now lives up to its expansive name even more than before. It is a true masterpiece of classic West African cuisine.
West African Way, 1405 Jupiter Rd., Ste. 116 Plano
Brian Reinhart became D Magazine’s food critic in 2022 after six years of writing about restaurants for the Dallas Observer and the Dallas Morning News.