>> Caribbean Soul Kitchen LA | Eat the World Los Angeles

Friday, 20 August 2021

Caribbean Soul Kitchen LA

Wilshire Blvd. facade

COVID-19 UPDATE: The interior is mainly used just for ordering and waiting, there are a half dozen tables in front for diners who want to eat immediately.

It seems like travel down Wilshire Blvd. usually takes place at 50mph or at a standstill riding the bumper of the car in front of you. Luckily this kind of traffic gives you time to look around and take in your surroundings, including the new openings like Caribbean Soul Kitchen LA which surprised those gridlock warriors and just opened their new bricks and mortar on Saturday.

But what to make about those seemingly competing three parts of the facade? Panamanian pride, Caribbean soul, and the flavors of Central America. All three, please and thank you. It is that top piece that is the most enticing in a city that has but one non-regular source of Panamanian food.

Interior mural of Jamaica and Panamá

A hint of the flavors you will find inside is in the form of a colorful mural that dominates the interior space. For now some of the more unique dishes, frituras, or hojaldre that are exclusive to Panamá are not yet to be found on the menu dominated by familiar Jamaican hits, but when discussed briefly it seemed to be the hope to expand in the future.

The main offerings for now are their grab and go "bowls" which combine a source of protein and a bed of rice and peas (notable for this description rather than gallo pinto) and cabbage. Stewed chicken, oxtail, and even cauliflower for the plant-based needs.

Takeout container with sancocho

On the same list as those bowls, but really more in its own category of its own given its true Panamanian nature is the sancocho ($15.50, above and below). There are versions of sancocho all over Latin America and the Caribbean, but only in Panamá is it considered a national dish. There is garlic and onions, as well as culantro and a specific instruction to squeeze a good deal of lime in the soup once it is ready.

On the first bite, non-Panamanians will suddenly be jealous of sick days in that country. This bowl is the essence of warmth and comfort, chicken soup for the soul for sure. Plenty of yuca, chayote, rice, and corn make this very hearty.

Sancocho warmed up at home

While the rest of the menu strays into Caribbean (mostly Jamaican) waters as mentioned, a small little hint of Panamá can also be found in an order of patacones ($6.50, below). An order is not gigantic, but pairs well with the soup and are cooked perfectly.

Smashed discs of green plantain are fried just right and salted well. It makes sense to order these with any other dishes here, especially if you have memories of meals in Panamá, which almost always include at least two or three on the plate. Alongside plates of meat or fish, these are almost as essential to round out meals as rice and beans.

A portion of patacones

If you browse through the social media and history of this business as a pop-up/pickup vendor, you will notice a prominence of one dish in particular. Step inside the new restaurant and you might be shown a photograph of it as well. And there it is at the top of the "a la carte" menu just saying hello.

Thankfully the jerk mac ($8.50, below) does not disappoint. This is no mediocre mac n' cheese, instead the work of a talented chef with a thick slick of jerk sauce running through every pasta elbow.

A takeout container with jerk mac

They make and bottle a few beverages (all $8) that look like good refreshments as well, if you need something to wash it all down.

Or maybe for the next time you are stuck in that Wilshire Blvd. traffic.

📍 5354 Wilshire Blvd., Mid-Wilshire, Central Los Angeles


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