The name of Senegal's national dish, thiebou djeun (Cheh-boo Jen), is derived from the Wolof words for rice (thieb) and fish (djeun). Its best measure, however, is the number of vegetables, wrote Robert Sietsema in his review of La Marmite, site of my previous favorite cheb. On this visit, Treichville's stellar rendition ($10) boasted eight, if you include the bright pepper on top as well as the cabbage, carrot, okra, red bell pepper, eggplant, squash, and (I'm pretty sure) yuca. The fish itself — barracuda! — was mild after being beached and boiled, and unfortunately, the texture suggested white-meat chicken as described by a lover of dark meat. Red snapper is often used for thiebou djeun, here and elsewhere; the fish, and the vegetables, will vary from day to day.
The mound of rice, largely hidden below, had been cooked in fish stock and, perhaps, tarted up with tamarind. Tucked behind it were two condiments, a reddish-brown (shrimp?) paste and a viscous green-pepper sauce, that I used sparingly, since the rice carried a spicy undercurrent of its own. (I doused it with a bottle of bissap (not shown; $2); the dark red beverage, made from hibiscus, had a sweet-tart flavor halfway between grape and cranberry.) The most delightful discovery in this dish was the lightly toasted rice, from the bottom of the pot, that you can see at the very front of the plate; like the concon of Dominican cooking, it adds crunch to a predominantly softer-textured dish. The same pot-scraping practice will be familiar to lovers of paella — which was an inspiration for the invention of theibou djeun, adds Sietsema — and bibimbap.
On an earlier visit, when I arrived too early for the thiebou djeun (served daily, but available only after 1:00, and not in limitless supply), I found solace in a bowl of soupe kandia (below; $10). Served with (and, if you like, spooned over) a broad dome of white rice, it's a stewy suspension of bits of okra and fish in a peppery palm oil sauce; the single large hunk of barracuda was accompanied by one tiny shrimp.
The ladies who run Treichville (Trysh-vil), which is named for a section of Abidjan, the largest city in the Ivory Coast, are from Senegal; the evening menu, which I haven't sampled, draws from several lands, one lady told me. The customers, too, seem to hail from throughout West Africa ("Where are you from?" is a question I overheard several times), and many must drive taxis; on the bulletin board by the door, near the ubiquitous remittance-company flyers and an Obama calendar, was a printout of the DMV point-system summary. But the spirit of the restaurant is better captured by the notice on the wall opposite; in French, it kindly asks patrons to refrain from political discussion on the premises. Indeed, when heads aren't turned up toward football on the flatscreen, either they're turned this way and that in casual banter, or tipped downward in delight toward the food.
339 East 118th St. (First-Second Aves.)