Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Inna Trini Explosion

With a neighborhood populated by so many West Indians, it's hardly shocking that there's at least two such restaurants on every block along Nostrand Avenue (and further afield) through Bed Stuy and Crown Heights. I'd sampled some of the Trini spots around my neighborhood and needed to try some more. My friend Jeremy, who had recently returned from a trip to Trinidad, joined me in an attempt to eat as much Trini food as we could one recent afternoon. Even though we limited ourselves to a few blocks, we still only tried a small sampling of Caribbean restaurants.

Our first stop was Green Mango Restaurant, located around the corner from Nostrand Avenue along an industrial stretch of Atlantic Ave. Mutlicolored grand opening flags still hanging outside betray the relative newness of this sleek joint, while a menu board along the street lists the daily specials.

Step off the LIRR for some great Trini food.

A quick aside. I'll assume most people here don't know what a doubles is (by the way, I'm acting much more knowledgeable about Trini food than I really am-- I probably had never heard of doubles until a few years ago and I'll be learning about the specifics of this cuisine along with you readers). The "doubles" refer to the two pieces of bara (like small discs of naan) colored yellow with turmeric. These make up the "bread" of this sandwich. Inside is cooked chickpeas (channa), which are ultimately topped with pepper sauce (and this often is made with fiery hot Scotch Bonnet peppers) and a sweet tamarind chutney. Sometimes there are other chutneys in there as well, but I'm not enough of an expert to tell you exactly which kinds.

They taste better than they look, I promise.

It seemed like a good idea to start light, so we split a doubles and a bake with fried fish (they were out of shark). Of all the doubles we tried that day, Green Mango has by far the hottest pepper sauce. They also will light you up if you insist on extra pepper, so be careful. Other than that, the doubles is solid but not spectacular. The bake was very good, especially doused in that pepper sauce, but you have to pick out the small bones, making for an interesting sandwich eating experience.

Just around the corner is Trini-Gul, which opened late last year (and apparently got a New York Times write up). It seems to be run by people of Indian descent, but I'm not sure what the correct word is (and I don't want to offend them), so I'll just call them what they are: really friendly people who are completely willing to explain different dishes to us.

On this particular visit we were beguiled by the curry crab and dumplings sitting in a flavorful gravy tasting strongly of (you guessed it) curry. Poured on top is calaloo, a simmered dish of greens (usually dasheen leaves, but it may have been spinach) as well as a couple of spoonfuls of their tangy pepper sauce.

We each took a piece of crab and went to work scavenging for the meat. The curry sauce had penetrated as deep as possible into the crab innards-- so good that I greedily sucked the juice out of even the smallest appendage. Likewise, the heavy dumplings drank in more of the curry sauce and made for a great bite when topped with calaloo. As with other Trini dishes, this is messy eating. Our fingers were stained yellow the rest of the day, while my dirtied white t-shirt displayed my battle wounds gained from trying to eat as much crab as possible.

Also pictured is macaroni covered in gravy and pepper sauce. I'm not sure how anyone could say a bad word about that combination. Either way, it was a fantastic side. With so much food we could barely finish the double, enlivened by the addition of a cooling cucumber chutney that I have yet to see anywhere else.

Chicken roti, which I had a few days later, is just as appealing as everything else on the menu. It's basically a Trini burrito filled with slow cooked potatoes, chana, pepper sauce and bony curry chicken wrapped in a buttery roti. This is not a burrito to be eaten without devoting your full attention.

Completely full and reeking of curry, A&A Bake and Doubles, was our final stop of the day. I didn't take a picture of the doubles we tried, but what set A&A apart was the addition of little flecks of fish to the chana. The fish imparted a briny sweetness to the sandwich (accentuated by the tamarind sauce). Not nearly as spicy as Green Mango's double, but way more interesting. They also took my friend's Trini money, which was pretty cool.

Completely full, we headed back to my apartment and watched a Louis C.K. stand-up special. Then I passed out early from way too much food-- an eventful day all around.

Like I've said, my doubles knowledge is still in its infant stages. I've tried Ali's (just down the street on Fulton), but I don't remember it well enough in order to make a good comparison (maybe that's a sign). All I really recall is that the channa was firmer than at most other places, which at least gave it some texture (as opposed to delicious mush and bread).

Even closer to me is Royal Bakery and Roti House, which Always Hungry declared to be the "best" double in NYC. I've peeked in a few times but haven't tried it yet (I will soon though, and report back to confirm or deny, since I'm obviously the final word on Trini food).

Green Mango Restaurant
1249 Atlantic Avenue (near Nostrand Avenue)
Brooklyn, NY 11216
(718) 399-3292
Green Mango on Urbanspoon

Trini Gul
543 Nostrand Avenue (near Herkimer Street)
Brooklyn, NY 11216 
(718) 484-4500
Trini-Gul on Urbanspoon

A&A Bake & Doubles Shop
481 Nostrand Avenue (near Fulton Street)
Brooklyn, NY 11216
(718) 230-0753
A & A Bake & Doubles Shop on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. Green Mango Restaurant has since closed. RIP. I will pour one out on the curb for them.