Last week @hyperbowler joined me to check out Golden Safari in Hayward. It specializes in Nigerian cuisine and opened less than two months ago.
I had a lot of questions about the menu, being completely new to West African cooking. Our server was quite patient, making recommendations for first-timers and checking with the kitchen when he did not have the answer.
For starters, we tried split a Meat pie, $3, and a pair of Buns, $1.15. The pastry of the pie was quite thick and crumbly, encasing a small amount of ground meat and veggie filling. The buns were dough balls fried to a crunch.
Then a small side order of Jollof rice, $7, that our server says everyone likes. Separate, long grains of rice seasoned with tomato, cinnamon, bay leaf, garlic, onion, red pepper, thyme, ginger, and other dark aromatic spices, plus some spicy heat. I liked this on its own and for soaking up the juices in our larger plates.
From this high carb beginning, I was ready for the spinach base in the Egusi, $12.99. The finely chopped spinach was enriched with red peppers, ground pumpkin seeds, palm oil and subtle spicing. Three big hunks of protein sat on the base and though coated with the saucing, the flavors had not permeated the bark-like exterior to the hard, tough interior. Despite not being able to eat the meat, I liked the other parts of this dish very much. We had ordered it with the fish (tilapia on the bone) option, but that's not what was served, and I suspect I'd like that better next time. Though denoted as "soup" on the menu, there was not much of a liquid fraction for drinking. Later the chef/owner came out to explain that "soup" can mean both those with more liquid and stewier dishes like this meant to eat with fufu.
For our Fufu to accompany the egusi, we were able to split the order to try both white yam and the yellow-tinged cassava version. Steamed to a pliable paste, one mixes these with the dry-style soups to eat with the hands. I did not find much of a discernible difference between them once mixed with the egusi.
Àsún, $12.99, was smoked goat, chopped and served on the bone, with braised sweet peppers and onions in natural juices. Good flavors and a dish for those who like to gnaw on bones, as the meat was quite chewy and needed to be attacked aggressively.
The lady chef/owner said that she'd been a caterer in the area and decided to try a restaurant in the town where her family lives. She seemed delighted that we enjoyed her food and flavors that were new to us. The braises make for good leftovers and I'll order with that in mind my next visit.
22431 Foothill Blvd
Hayward, CA 94541