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A restaurant name like Le French conjures visions of tartare, moules-frites, and other bistro staples. That’s why it may seem strange to go there for Senegalese food. But stick with me here: It’ll all make sense once you consider the owners’ backgrounds.

The 9&CO restaurant is a sister eatery to the original Le French, located in the Denver Tech Center and owned by Aminata and Rougui Dia. The siblings’ family is from Senegal (a former French colony whose cuisine was influenced by 300 years of occupation), and they were raised just outside of Paris, where family cooking sessions and visits to farmers’ markets gave the sisters a love of cooking. Rougui stayed in the City of Light, where she became the first Black woman to serve as an executive chef at a Michelin-starred restaurant and even won the French National Medal of Honor for her culinary contributions.

Portrait of Ami Dia, co-owner
Chef-owner Aminata Dia. Photo by Sarah Banks

Meanwhile, Aminata and her husband moved to Denver in 2002 after falling in love with Colorado during a visit with friends. He got a job in IT, and she started a catering service called AmiCuisine. In 2019, Aminata persuaded Rougui to come stateside to open the casual yet chic restaurant they always dreamed of creating together, and Le French sprung to life at Belleview Station. Then, this past September, the Dias expanded their business to the Hale neighborhood with a sleek, sophisticated, dimly lit space with a sparkling black male bar and a floor-to-ceiling wine wall dividing the dining rooms. It’s loud with conversation and clinking glasses, the kind of place that ventures to the edge of stuffy but stops just short.

The seasonally rotating menus at both locations are the same and offer mostly French food. But if you scroll past the Champagne, sparkling wine, and cocktails (try the refreshing bubbles-and-crème-de-violette Les Perles) at the top of the menu and skip past the escargot and steak frites on the dinner menu, you can seek out the limited number of Senegalese dishes, which just so happen to be the restaurants’ best offerings.

My favorite is the jollof rice, a West African staple in which rice is cooked with spices, tomatoes, and sometimes fish or other proteins, depending on the recipe. Le French’s is kept vegetarian by slow-simmering bell peppers, tomatoes, curry powder, and cumin, with each grain thoroughly soaking up those deep flavors. Think of it as the African antecedent to jambalaya. Jollof is available as a side, but I’d get it as an entrée and add pan-seared shrimp or scallops.

The poulet yassa—a bone-in chicken leg quarter marinated overnight with lemon, vinegar, and Dijon mustard—is also excellent. Grilled for a hint of char and then cooked with caramelized onions, the result is an ultra-juicy, tangy bird I devoured with the accompanying white rice and sweet, pop-in-your-mouth peas.

Another can’t-miss Senegalese dish is the pastels, empanada-size pastries loaded with tuna, habanero, garlic, and parsley then crimped, fried to order, and served on more of those caramelized onions. The flaky pastry shatters upon first bite, revealing that umami-packed filling, and you’ll need to grab some onions to temper the richness. It’s a crave-worthy, albeit heavy, appetizer that fits seamlessly into the French-focused menu.

Less successful was the boeuf bourguignon, which didn’t have the melded flavors I wanted from the classic French dish. The beef should be soft and sticky with wine, but instead of that subtle wine flavor suffusing everything it’s slow-simmered with, Le French’s tasted like the wine was added too late, making it bland with a jolt of acidity.

Sous chef Maria making a crepe
Sous chef Marie Naves makes crêpes at the 9&CO location of Le French. Photo by Sarah Banks

However, when I visited for brunch, the crêpes—a very French dish indeed—were tasty, particularly the variety filled with Nutella, chocolate syrup, and berries. Airy and delicate, the ultra-thin pancakes are a neutral canvas for everything from andouille sausage and cheese to a beurre Suzette, a traditional French sauce of citrus, sugar, and butter. The Parisian omelet is also solid; the fluffy eggs showcase roasted cremini mushrooms, Gruyère, and tender Parisian ham.

Still, my favorite brunch dish was, perhaps unsurprisingly, the Senegalese fried chicken sandwich. Brined in pickle juice and coated with gluten-free flour for a tissue-thin breading, the breast is topped with citrus-kissed yassa sauce in the form of a tangy jam. In a city overrun with fried chicken sandwiches, this is something deliciously different.

The Dia sisters have succeeded at creating a très chic bistro, but the best things at Le French are not French. Instead of beef tartare and bouillabaisse, I wish they’d give us more of those West African dishes brimming with chiles, lemon, caramelized onions, and tomatoes we don’t often see in the Mile High City. It’s those flavors, not the predictable French options, that make the 9&CO restaurant a must-visit. 846 Albion St.

In Summary

  • The Draw: French and Senegalese dishes in a sophisticated setting
  • The Drawback: Some French plates are lacking relative to the more flavorful Senegalese dishes.
  • Noise Level: Moderate
  • Don’t Miss: Poulet yassa, jollof rice, fried chicken sandwich, crêpes

3 More Must-Try French Restaurants

Denverites are saying bonjour to several new or revamped French eateries. Here, three to satisfy your cravings.


Nicholas Dalton is on a mission to de-stuffify French food. A founding partner at the Cole neighborhood’s Brasserie Brixton, Dalton opened LoHi’s Jacques this past fall. While Brixton offers a French menu with global influences, Jacques’ is more traditional, going heavy on the butter in plates such as escargot in puff pastry and potato pavé with caviar beurre blanc. 3200 Tejon St.

Crêpes ’n Crêpes

In spring 2023, Crêpes ’n Crêpes—a beloved 20-year-old business founded by chef Alain Veratti, a native of Montpellier in southern France—relocated from Cherry Creek to an upgraded space with a bar and patio in Congress Park. There, it offers an expanded lineup of more than 25 crêpes, including savory and dessert varieties. 1222 Madison St.

Cocktail on table at La Foret
Photo by Connor Stehr/Courtesy of La Forêt

La Forêt

This nearly two-month-old establishment took over the Beatrice & Woodsley space, beloved for its aspen-tree-filled decor, on South Broadway. La Forêt’s ownership team (also behind the Arvada Tavern and the Tartarian) kept the whimsical ambience but updated the menu with French liqueurs and cocktails and alpine-inspired European cuisine (think: stag au poivre). 38 S. Broadway

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This article was originally published in 5280 May 2024.
Allyson Reedy
Allyson Reedy
Allyson Reedy is a freelance writer and ice cream fanatic living in Broomfield.