Best African Restaurant: Taming the devilish spices
West African food can be a hard sell in the United States, what with its creamy starches, rich palm oil, and devilish spicing. After spending years cooking Ghanaian food at US street festivals, Duke Nudanu has learned this lesson well, so he's done a lot to bring his food into line with Californian tastes, toning down the peppers, say, and garnishing dinner platters with mixed-greens salads. He's even gone so far as to serve a few Caribbean dishes in order to give the truly timid something familiar to cling to. There's no reason, though: His Ghanaian food is even better than it was when Tropical Paradise opened eighteen months ago. Who doesn't love plantains deep-fried with shredded ginger? Who can't get behind chicken chichinga, rubbed with mustard, lemon juice, ginger, garlic, and ground peanuts and then grilled? Who can resist the primeval pleasure of fufu, a dreamily bland, velvety mash of pounded yams served with a spicy stew? Especially when it's all served up by folks who are as friendly as can be.