City Paper is not for tourists
Walking into Hyattsville’s Senegalese restaurant Chez Dior, I expect to encounter several dishes soaked in a savory peanut sauce paired with heady ginger juice and maybe some yassa chicken featuring drumsticks so tender the dark meat says see-yuh to the bone. Check. Check. And check. But there’s a surprise waiting in a section of the menu I typically shrug off—the kid’s menu.
I’m glad I looked because I find what amounts to the Disney World of dishes—THE plate for children or children at heart. Humbly titled “spaghetti and hot dog with cheese,” the $6.99 selection doesn’t immediately speak to me. Then I spot the accompanying photo that shows bite-size franks strung like beads on short strands of spaghetti.
When I order it, I’m surprised to find a hint of pushback from our server, but not because we’re a table of thirty-somethings with nary a toddler in tow. “It takes time,” she says. For something so epic, I got all of the time in the world baby. “No really, it will come out after all of the rest of the food.”
We polish off fish wrapped in cabbage leaves, grilled lamb and couscous, and a delectable Cameroonian dish called ndole that resembles an Indian saag curry because it features spinach, bitter leaves, and a creamy peanut sauce. But we’re careful to save just enough space for one or two hot dog rounds that look a little like Raggedy Ann with the noodles drooping down like hair.
Moments before the “spaghetti and hot dog with cheese” arrives, the server checks back in to ask if we’d like the cheese. I pass, and later can’t fathom the addition to what is already a rich dish.
It’s soupy from what I’m told is a variation of tomato sauce, plus a dramatic drizzle of ketchup on top. But other than these scant details, our server is as tight lipped as a top chef gunning for a Michelin star.
“How do you get the spaghetti through the hot dogs?” I ask, twice. “It’s a secret,” she tells me, twice. Though she confirms it’s available in Senegal, she says the technique was learned in the U.S.
This recipe seems to suggest that you stick dry pasta through the hot dog morsels before boiling them together. Chez Dior is right, that does look like a time suck. Maybe it’s better to trust such a precise technique to the professionals. The dish, after all, is the perfect anecdote to the kid’s tasting menus restaurants are rolling out these days.
If I were still wearing OshKosh B’Gosh, I’d want to skip the peanut butter-and-jelly-flavored flan and make a mess out of a plate of spaghetti and hot dogs that tastes like you’ve successfully snuck Olive Garden into the ballpark.
Chez Dior, 5124 Baltimore Ave., Hyattsville; (240) 696-5907; chezdior.com