Spiciest Dish in Columbus Series: Intercontinental Restaurant
When we made a vow to eat less wings this year, we were serious.
We’ve continued to branch out into new food arenas and lately we’ve been going for West African cuisine. This week we tried Intercontinental Restaurant owned by Esther and Olawale Ajiboye whose mission is “to positively promote our West African culture by filling the niche of a starved market with our delicious dishes; and we are dedicated to serving the best West African Cuisine in this great city of Columbus, Ohio.” Everything is cooked from scratch at this eatery that has been around since 2011 (formerly named the Lagos Pepper Soup Corner) just north of 161 on Cleveland Avenue. Focusing on the healthy side of African dishes, you won’t find any desserts on their menu (always makes The Lady of the Farm sad), but we did find what we were looking for, spicy dishes.
Do you see the amount of spices used on this? They do not skimp. This is “Suya” their spicy meat kabob. It’s got a tender feel to it and is almost like fresh beef jerky. The spices (unconfirmed) seem to be something along the lines of cumin, allspice, potentially some turmeric, and then the heat of either some habanero powder or similar pepper. From smell alone I knew this was going to be too spicy for the Lady of the Farm but she gave it a go. Eyebrows raised she let out something between an “oof” and a “wow” before scrambling for a drink. “Yeah, these are yours” she confirmed. I gladly accepted and plowed through one of them, saving the other for the next day to see if the flavors would soak in more (they did).
Spending many years in Florida, the Lady of the Farm loves plantains, so any chance she gets, she gets plantains. Thankfully at Intercontinental Restaurant plantains come with just about everything. She ordered herself the Jollof Rice, a steamed rice cooked in a tomato sauce with spices, and chicken as her meat of choice. I watched as she got started, stopped, went to the fridge and grabbed a half gallon of iced tea. The addictive qualities of the Jollof rice had her digging back in bite after bite, but the sweat had started and her mouth was on fire. “I can’t stop” she yelled, reaching for another glass of liquid, trying to put out some of the heat she was encountering.
I cut in to grab a forkful to see what she was dealing with and of the Jollof Rice dishes we’ve had, this was definitely on the spicier end of the spectrum. This is pretty much a perfect dish. It brings some heat, the rice is tasty and the chicken is amazing. I don’t normally stray too far from just talking about the heat of a dish, but I will say I was sad that the chicken disappeared so quickly, it was that good. The skin was amazing and whatever they cooked it in, or spices they used, it left me wanting a lot more of it. I will definitely be getting the chicken the next time we get Intercontinental Restaurant.
The dish that caught our eye for this series was the Warrior Platter. It’s down-played on the website, but GrubHub points out this dish is a “Tomato base stew cooked with habanero pepper, bell pepper and special spices. Served with steamed rice and fried plantain.” What you see is everything mixed together and if you look closely you can see chunks of pepper in there. For the meat I selected beef, which came as two big stew-type meat chunks. Again, would definitely get chicken next time. Takeout is interesting because you can’t always be sure what anything is when it shows up in separate containers.
Best as I can determine, I was given a cup of some mashed habaneros on the side. There was either some oil or some other spice because a direct taste didn’t fully accentuate the habs. Of course, I took that tiny cup and tossed all of it into my dish of rice and stew.
The stew itself looks angry. There is a layer of oil, similar to what we’ve seen in other spicy dishes and when you stir it, more habanero chunks and seeds pop up. Dumping half of my rice into a bowl with beef, half of the soup and all of the death cup of peppers, I trekked in. First bite is calm and let’s you look around at everything else that’s going on. Maybe you still get to tell a joke or two, or communicate at the table. Five bites in, you get that first punch of heat and then you’re done for.
The heat of the Warrior Platter sits there. It’s like a drunk wedding guest that doesn’t realize he’s overstayed his welcome, the heat just wanders all over. It starts singing karaoke during the father-daughter dance and then passes out in a plant only to wake up and start stumbling all over again. Sniffles began, the heat was steady and I still had over half the dish left.
Intercontinental Restaurant’s heat is relentless. Once it takes hold, prepare yourself because it’s going to stick around. It builds and then plateaus, sitting on the edge of pleasant discomfort and being in bed for the rest of the day discomfort. Thankfully it never crosses the line, but is definitely at a “if this goes higher I might die” level.
Making my way through the dish, my nose continued to run, my mouth was on fire and that heat just sat right there, unbothered. Drink something? Nope. Eat some Jollof? Not going to help you. It was stuck.
The bottom of the bowl left a nice hot oily residue, reminding you that even though the rice soaked a lot up, it wasn’t enough to prevent the heat from sinking to the bottom. Best of luck to your insides.
Five tissues later, my nose was clear and the spicy high slowly set in. Not overwhelming or leg-wobbling, but noticeable. A sense of calm and warmth washed over as I washed my dish. I hadn’t felt anything like that in a while. The linger remained for a few minutes and I thought about where the Warrior Platter ranks on our list.
With the high level of heat and the way it stays steady throughout the entire dish, this is not a spicy dish for newcomers to the spicy game. The Lady of the Farm stayed far away from it and was smart to do so. We’re putting the Warrior Platter at #10 on our list, just behind Fukuryu Ramen’s Red Dragon Ramen and kicking Hoggy’s XXXInferno Wings out of the top 10. The second day of this dish kicked me even harder, so it’s definitely worth a try for any of you spice-seekers. Just remember to do yourself a favor and get the chicken.
You can find Intercontinental Restaurant at 5777 Cleveland Avenue, open noon to 9:00pm Monday through Saturday.
Look below for more in our spiciest dish in Columbus series and hit us up if you have any suggestions that are not already on our list!
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