Restaurant Review: Hearty West African Cuisine in Lynnwood

You won’t always get the same dish at Bantaba – they sometimes sell out intermittently and quickly – but I can almost guarantee that whatever you order will be excellent.

And really, you should try their entire menu.

Lynnwood’s counter-service restaurant serves West African dishes. Many appear bright red and orange from an exuberant use of tomato, chilli, curry powder and other spices. These flavors permeate meat, rice, melting vegetables like cabbage and eggplant.

All of the menu items are rib dishes: even their best-selling black pea coleslaw can be a satisfying lunch with its green and red peppers, carrots, red cabbage and cilantro, all tossed in a juicy and slightly spicy vinaigrette.

If you’re not very hungry, you’ll probably have leftovers.

The first time I went to Bantaba they were out of coleslaw and fried plantains. My colleague and I were disappointed, but we went ahead. My colleague ordered Chicken Yassa ($11), a Senegalese dish often flavored with caramelized onions, mustard, lemon and other spices. Bantaba’s version was sassy and came with white rice.

I ordered the benachin with fish ($11). Also called jollof rice, this tomato-based rice dish is as simple as it is more indulgent, with a bit of lingering spice. Bantaba serves its fish here with bones, giving more flavor to the dish. The skin of the fish reminded me of a nice chicken wing in sauce. Tart and rich and salty. You can also get the benachin with beef ($12) or lamb ($13).

Bantaba in Lynnwood serves its fish benachin with tender cabbage, silky eggplant and hearty cassava. Each vegetable took on the flavors of the tomato-rich rice dish. The skin of the fish was reminiscent of a spicy, saucey chicken wing. (Taylor Goebel / The Herald)

Even if you’ve never tried West African cuisine, Bantaba’s dishes will make you feel right at home. The portions, especially the benachin, are enough to make you feel like grandma put seconds on your plate, then thirds.

The second time I ordered from Bantaba they had run out of fish so I tried the benachin with chicken and could taste how the marinade had soaked into the meat. They also had the black eyed pea salad this time. After my takeout feast, I sat back in my chair with my feet up, convincing myself that I was way too full for one more bite of coleslaw.

Other popular dishes include peanut stew with beef ($11), fried tilapia ($14), and their vegetarian plate ($11).

Bantaba has a small dining area, although they were still take out – only the last time I was there. Counter servers are happy to help with recommendations and questions.

The meat portions are generous but the jollof rice seemed to grow exponentially with each bite. I was able to split the dish into two portions.

I recycled the rice in different meals. For a hearty breakfast, I’ll crisp the rice on the stove before cracking a few eggs on it. During a writing deadline, I’ll hover over the counter and shovel my leftovers down my cold throat. I call those rushed midday meals my sad lunch, but cold Bantaba rice is infinitely better than popcorn and spoonfuls of peanut butter.

Bantaba had fried plantains in stock the second time, but I didn’t order them. Benachin and coleslaw were plentiful and anyway I wanted a new dish to look forward to on my next Bantaba run.

If you are going to

Bantaba African Restaurant

19417 36th Ave W., Lynnwood


Do you have a favorite restaurant or meal you’d like to see in The Daily Herald? Email food journalist Taylor Goebel at [email protected] or call 425-339-3046. Twitter: @taylorgoebel. Join the Herald’s food-focused Facebook group, SnohomDish.


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