Archive for the ‘Haitian’ Category

I wanted to try my usual go-to Haitian eatery in Brooklyn, La Caye, but the wait was too long. Therefore, we went for Chloe’s which is another Haitian eatery in Brooklyn.

We ate:

-Lambi boucané (Grilled conch) was prepared exactly as they do it in Haiti: not tenderized, not boiled. Straight to the grill. Great grilling flavour and superb pickling technique for the onion/red pepper that was served with the lambi boucane. 7/10

-Crab cake featured plenty of fresh crab meat and was enjoyable with a batter that had proper airy crispiness (flaky and tender), the cakes holding together well. 7/10

-Tassot de cabrit (Fried goat meat – upper left corner on the previous photo) featured tender tasty goat meat (flawless marinade of the meat, they have masterfully balanced the acidity coming from the lemon element with the necessary subtle spicy kick this dish requires) 8/10

The sos pwa (bean sauce – In this instance, a red bean sauce made with shallots, garlic cloves, thyme, parsley, etc), one sauce that is simple and yet utterly delicious and beautifully textured in its prime, was, here, edible, for sure, but tired-looking and has certainly been in its prime, at some point, but not when it made its appearance at our table (the vibrant red bean flavour of the sauce was only present in our wishes).  1/10

The diri kole ak pwa  (rice with red kidney beans, flavoured with thyme/parsley/cloves – right side of the previous picture) was almost bland. I am not sure why some Haitian eateries outside of Haiti do not invest a bit more time and care in the work of the diri kole as Haitians, back home, are used to their diri kole being flavourful. Not here. Too bad, as the Haitian diri kole is usually the most flavourful  of all the  versions  of this dish found in other Caribbean cuisines. I had more flavorful diri kole  at many Haitians eateries elsewhere. However, this is an example where many food reviewers confuse personal taste with technical flaws. Not flavoring the rice is not a technical flaw, in this instance. It is the choice that the kitchen made. A choice that I do not like, but not a flaw. Overcooking the rice, burning it when it is not supposed to, etc..those are technical flaws. Theirs was technically well executed: it  was not dry and it was freshly prepared.

 

-Grilled red snapper was dry throughout, therefore had virtually no flavour 0/10

-Akra ( fritters made of Malanga — a type of root vegetable —, garlic, scallion, peppers, flour ) was freshly prepared, the texture exactly as the one of a perfectly genuine Haitian Akra, though a tad oily but this is not a gourmet restaurant that is looking after such little details and rustic Haitian cooking has the « bit oily » feature as a perfectly legit/genuine part of the Akra experience. 7/10

The pikliz – a condiment made of raw chopped vegetables such as carrots/bell peppers/cabbage that are pickled in white vinegar alongside scotch bonnet peppers and seasoned with garlic, whole cloves and onion had proper genuine taste. This pikliz was certainly great in its prime (meaning if it was timely served) but it arrived at our table with the characteristics of the lesser pikliz: its crunch was a feature of the past, its dryness a  reality of the present tense. A pikliz without crunch and texture is not what one should be looking for (in the same fashion as a slaw —as pikliz is essentially a sort of pickled spicy slaw — if it is not going to have crunch and texture, it is better not to serve it). Too bad, as it was evident that the technique to conceive that pikliz was on point (5/10).

Bottom line: An erratic performance. Not in the league of La Caye, for sure. I would still go back for the tassot de cabrit though, as well as the Akra and will try their other dishes (lambi, poulet en sauce, for example). Overall food rating: 5.5/10 (tassot de cabrit, akra and lambi boucané were good, the pickling technique generally superior, but all of that was marred by a sos pwa, some pikliz as well as a red snapper that should have never left the kitchen) Service: 6/10 (doing the basics , polite) Chloe’s restaurant Addr: 9413 Ave L, Brooklyn NY, 11236 Phone:  347-770-9051

La Caye is a Haitian restaurant situated in the heart of downtown Brooklyn.

LA CAYE 02My starter was a faultless acra, freshly fried,the texture nicely crunchy (not dry as it is oftently the case elsewhere) on the outside, superbly soft on the inside (oftently mushy at most tropical eateries), the taste genuine (exactly as a talented Haitian Mammie-cook would cook it, but here the texture  is more refined than rustic) and  great. 8/10

LA CAYE 03My wife went on with a  lambi  (stewed conch) – the seafood  of superb quality, cooked to a perfect chewy texture, the sauce well made. Again and again, talented Haitian Mammie cooking quality, with refined presentation.  My wife is Haitian and happens to be a superb cook. Her opinion of La Caye was that this is as great as Haitian cooking will taste like in North America.  8/10

LA CAYE 04Faultless is also how I  would describe my red snapper, broiled to perfect moist consistency on the inside, the skin lightly crisp as it should, the seasoning well judged. Hard to improve upon that one. 9/10

Rounded off the meal with an excellent  Pen Patat/Pain Patate (sweet potato bread), the potato flavor particularly  exquisite 9/10 as well as a pineapple upside down cake which was technically  baked properly and tasted fine, but I had pineapple upside down cakes which pineapple flavor was more expressive than this one.

Pros: A first-rate Haitian restaurant

Cons: No Rhum at a Haitian restaurant (there was none on the evening of my visit)?

Overall: 8/10 (Categ: Finest Haitian restaurant in North America) Many restaurants cooking caribbean food  suffer from occasional issues such as rice not moist enough because it was not cooked to order, fried bananas bathed too long in oil, overcooked seafood, etc. In a nutshell, issues due to a problem of time management. And yet, you get used to it. But during this meal, not one single item could be faulted on the aspect of the timing (cooking of the fish? timed right. The plantain bananas. same thing. the lambi, same thing, etc). For someone like me who expects a certain degree of mastery (mastery of the timing of the cooking in this example) at a restaurant, the level  of  perfection found on this evening had to eventually  jump to my attention. I liked La Caye (a small but tastefully decorated interior, bathed in dark wood, good service) as it offers  refined food that is  genuinely Haitian. But it  can be  pricey  ( fresh quality ingredients, which is what they use — especially seafood — is never going to be cheap, obviously  ). La Caye, Addr: 35 Lafayette Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217, United States Phone:+1 718-858-4160  http://www.lacayebk.com/#!menu/c24tf

What I think weeks later: Sometimes people ask me if it is possible to have an accurate opinion of some food if you are not from the country of the food you are assessing. You do not need to be from  the country of the food you are talking about. I do not need to be Haitian to understand genuine Haitian flavors.  You can be Haitian and have no real interest in Haitian food. The key, if you can’t afford travelling, is to reach out to a Haitian friend’s Mom and ask her to  cook some Haitian food for you and teach you how genuine Haitian food should taste, smell  and feel like. Ask the same thing to 2,3 other Haitian Moms and next time you will know what you are talking about, lol.  That said, in North America, most Haitian eateries  do usually reproduce the flavors of the homeland effortlessly —- that is widely confirmed by Haitians of all generations. And that is what La Caye does.