of the plate. Goat stew One of the most popular entrees is the smoky bone-in goat stew($15). This is a goat dish even for “non-goat people”; the stew,which simmers for four hours, has the muskiness of goat, but itsdeep mahogany sauce still retains a certain freshness from thetomato. The daily specials are also well-liked and can range fromyassa salmon to jerk chicken to salt cod stew.
The restaurant has quite a few seafood options, including wholefish (grilled or fried) as well as Tanzanian fish ($13), generousfillets of tilapia that have been confidently seasoned andpan-seared till deep brown. It is bathed in a coconut milk sauce,and its natural sweetness and velvety richness provide a delightfulfoil. Like most of the entrees, the sauce is very flavorful butdoes not have a lot of heat. (You can ask for hot sauce on theside.) And of course, no Pan-African restaurant could get away withoutserving peanut sauce ($13), a staple throughout West and CentralAfrica. This iconic dish is prepared in as many ways as there arecooks, and Soleil’s version is on the lighter, thinner side, withflavors of roasted groundnut and bits of tomato and greens.
It’snot too heavy or greasy — a brighter take that expresses Banguid’sfresh and healthful approach. Rice, which comes playfully topped with frizzled yam shards, is thestandard accompaniment for the peanut sauce and for the other stewsand gravy-rich entrees. For a small extra charge ($3) you cansubstitute fufu, a dense, smooth ball of pounded cassava with aslightly glutinous texture that provides a stick-to-your-ribsadjunct to the plush, savory sauces. Entrees also usually come witha few chunks of fried plantains.
For those really wanting to get their plantain on, plantains canalso be substituted for rice ($3 extra) or ordered as an appetizer($5). Soleil’s plantains are pitch-perfect, with a crispcaramelized exterior that gives way to a tender, dense and sweetinterior. The appetizer version comes with a side ofZippichilidippi Sauce, the restaurant’s own sweet-hot condiment. The sauce also accompanies other starters, such as the Ethiopiansamosas ($6): three tall, crisp pyramids filled with choppedcarrot, peas and onions, and a hint of heat.
They were fine, as wasthe spicy, thick Moroccan hummus appetizer ($7, served with pita),but we would rather save our appetites for the entrees — and thebanana beignets ($5). The beignets are one of two desserts at Soleil’s, and can be easilyshared by three people. Banana purée is mixed right into thesweet batter, and plopped into hot oil by the spoonful, resultingin greaseless, airy orbs with a lovely banana flavor throughout.They are served piping hot with a dash of powdered sugar, and hotsauce if you want it. Over dessert, when most of the dinner crowd of families andneighbors had dispersed, TJ Banguid, Soleil’s warm and outgoingwife, who works the front of the house, sat down to chat with us.Later Soleil emerged from the kitchen to mingle with guests, and weended up talking about Congolese music, African politics and, ofcourse, food. At the end of the night, we ended up feeling likelong-lost friends who were invited over to their house for dinner– or well-loved kids whose mother spoils them with home cooking.
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