Haitian joint Caraibouffe offers plenty of great dishes from the Pearl of the Antilles
I’m nibbling on a tablette aux noix as I write this, a clump of roasted cashews held together by brown sugar. "An overdose of joy," I was told it would be by the woman behind the cash of Caraibouffe.
Overall the food is pretty joyful at this Haitian restaurant tucked into an unlikely block of Côte-des-Neiges, between an upscale Russian restaurant and the German-Austrian deli Atlantique.
The space is pleasant, if a bit generically so. Dark brown walls, dark modern furniture, tables spaced and placed well so you don’t feel cheek by jowl with your neighbour. Even though this is a great place for takeout, anyone would feel happy to sit and while away a meal.
The menu is long, to reflect the different kinds of rice you can have with the dishes. The most interesting is the djon djon rice, in which djon djon mushooms (native to Haiti) are cooked with the rice, then taken out, leaving their juices behind. The rice is risotto-like, with an earthy fungal flavour and a few lima beans thrown in for fun. I ate that with a pork griot, a dry stewed pork that the cooks also stuff into panini or toss with salad. Even though it was chewy, there was good flavour and some nice bits of fat.
I took home more for the family supper. The tassot de cabri, with red beans and rice, consisted of chunks of goat, tangy and more tender than I’ve usually found. My husband pointed out a subtle fruity warmth to the beast.
An étouffée of vegetable was beefier than its name would belie. Carrots, eggplant and other veg were blended with slightly sour, shredded beef. We had this with just plain rice, nicely cooked into separate grains. A little soup of beans came alongside with a note of citrus, I think, that made it sing.
As good as these dishes were, my husband chided me for not bringing home the spaghetti creole with smoked herring, one of the other intriguing menu items. And since he doesn’t have a sweet tooth, he wasn’t mollified by the dessert of sweet potato bread, which wasn’t as sweet as you’d expect. The moist square was made with the potato, coconut milk and cinnamon, yet somehow tasted floral. The aforementioned tablette aux noix was kept until the next day, fuelling my writing, and my desire to return to Caraibouffe.
5050 Côte-des-Neiges, 438-380-9903
Meal for two: $20-$30