We check out three new eateries where West Indian grub---and tropical drinks---are the draw.
Tue Sep 6 2011
Photograph: Alex Strada
Oxtail with rice and beans at Janelle's
While Miss Lily's creates buzz for Caribbean cuisine, this brightly painted Prospect Heights canteen has far more in common with those humble mom-and-pops that have long been a staple of the boroughs. You can find West Indian standbys like brown stew chicken and curry goat, but chef-owner Russel Baptiste also delivers some harder-to-find specialties from his native Trinidad and Tobago.
Any order should start with Baptiste's excellent jerk chicken wings, which make up for their paltry proportions with a killer balance of sweetness and spice (he uses honey, ginger, orange juice and Scotch bonnet peppers in addition to the usual
Larger dishes, meanwhile, reflect Trinidad and Tobago's patchwork food traditions. There's Trinidad-style lo mein, as junky and addictive as it sounds, with dry-rubbed strips of chicken breast and more pungent seasoning than the average Chinese-takeout version. From the East Indian playbook, there's roti—ours was dry and mealy, but we pillaged the accompanying platter of mashed-up pumpkin, apple achar (similar to a fruit chutney), and curried chickpeas and potatoes. And while the classic braised oxtail is too sticky with collagen, the rice and beans that come with it are superb—thick-grained and moist with rich coconut milk.
The place is low on atmosphere and doesn't yet have a liquor license, but the upbeat waitresses keep diners in good spirits, and you can BYO rum to top up a glass of tangy house-made sorrel juice.
671 Washington Ave between Prospect Pl and St Marks Ave, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn (718-576-6270). Subway: 2, 3 to Grand Army Plaza. Tue--Fri 11:30am--11:30pm; Sat, Sun 8:30am--11:30pm. Average main course: $14.