When Nigerian chef Lekan Williams serves up a steaming plate of jollof
rice, beans, and dodo
(fried plaintains), the meal is unequivocally slammin'. Black-eyed peas -- the beans on Williams' menu -- might seem an odd menu item to go for, but this chef's talent for simmering said peas in a garlic, red pepper, and tomato sauce until they are soft and plump, but still whole, is the perfect reminder to never say never. The lightly salted plaintains are ripe with a hint of sweetness, crispy on the edges, and medium-firm inside. They fall midway between the firm, nearly green plaintains so popular in Puerto Rican cooking and the sweet, soft, overripe version that many Virgin Islanders seem to love. As for Williams' jollof rice (actually a traditional Ghanaian dish), this is -- hands down -- the finest seasoned rice in the East Bay. Like his beans, the rice is laced with red and green peppers sauteéd in a hint of pungent palm oil, then simmered in a garlic, onion, and tomato sauce. The rice alone will leave you sated.