The flavors of West Africa are on the menu this week at Arcana in Boulder, thanks to a kitchen takeover by Modou Jaiteh, chef-owner of Jacaranda inside Rosetta Hall. There, Jaiteh cooks the dishes he grew up eating in the Gambia, layered with influences from the New World cultures he’s experienced in the United States. This week’s collaboration is also like a homecoming of sorts, as Jaiteh cooked at Arcana for about a year before opening Jacaranda.
“It’s a restaurant I had my eye on since I moved to Boulder,” Jaiteh says of Arcana. “I have admired what they do, and the food. I learned a lot there, and there are a lot of people there I respect.”
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One of those people is Arcana executive chef Samuel McCandless, who assisted Jaiteh with the development of the recipes for the pop-up and will cook with him each night. “He cooks from the heart,” McCandless says. “It’s a beautiful thing to be around. I feel really privileged to work with the guy.”
The all-new Jacaranda x Arcana menu, which features local ingredients from Boulder County farms, is only available through July 11. Jaiteh, McCandless, and their teams will prepare specialties like spicy fish head stew with carrot and eggplant; West Indian lamb shank curry; oleleh (black eyed peas, smoked eggplant, and habanero steamed in a banana leaf); and tomato-and-onion jollof rice (with the option to add lobster). While the menu is exclusive to Arcana, Jaiteh says that a couple items will make their way onto Jacaranda’s menu soon.
“These are all dishes I’ve been thinking about for a long time,” Jaiteh says. “The whole concept of Jacaranda is how do we make similarities with the food of places like Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica with the food I grew up eating in Gambia…the cuisines are separate, but we talk about the similarities and the connections with the New World.”
“He brings something to the table that you can’t get around here,” McCandless says of Jaiteh. “It’s so inspiring.”
The Jacaranda x Arcana collaboration is available for dinner, from 4–9 p.m., through Saturday, July 11, with a special brunch in the works for Sunday, July 12. Reserve your table here.
909 Walnut St., Boulder