>> Taste of the Caribbean | Eat the World Los Angeles

Monday 9 August 2021

Taste of the Caribbean


COVID-19 UPDATE: This location is a pickup window. You can call your order in ahead if you prefer not to mingle on the sidewalk, and they will bring it out to the car if requested.

The colorful flags of Caribbean nations wave above the tiny building that houses Taste of the Caribbean, and a menu and introduction to the chef are posted in front. But chances are you would never notice any of this as this section of Normandie, while technically a 40 mile per hour zone, is usually home to speeds well over 50.

Slow down or pull over and you will see the flags a little more closely in all their tattered glory, and probably a few cars full of folks waiting for their orders. Look over the menu, pet the friendly neighbor cat, and read a little about Chef Bernard James. You may have to fight loud music from cars and racing sounds going down the avenue, but step up to the little window to get in your order.

About 20 minutes later (or less if you called ahead) you should be the proud owner of spreads like the one above, ready to eat immediately or save for later. If it is your first time and you have not been following the chef online or anywhere else, you should know he is very proud of his unique jerk salmon, seen in the top left.

But if you are deciding on only one dish to eat immediately and saving the rest for later, dig into any of the roti orders first as this Caribbean flatbread always begs to be eaten when most fresh. Note the presentation of an order of curry chicken roti ($13, below) with the flaky, dusty wonderful roti on the side. Now there is no right way to eat curry and roti, but most of the offerings in Los Angeles to this point have been in wrap form, comparable to the ubiquitous burrito.

These are of course as common as an afternoon thunderstorm in the Caribbean, with shops in Georgetown and Port of Spain open late to satisfy cravings, but even more often you will find diners sitting down with a bowl in front of them and the roti there to be torn apart and used as a utensil. This is probably the more enjoyable way to savor each and every flavor, and this is even before the fact that this chef's curry is the tastiest around.

He has cooked the chicken just right, and the waves of spices and heat are a joy to discover. What a good start to a hopefully long and beautiful relationship with the restaurant. So it was with much anticipation that the chef's special jerk salmon ($16, below) was dug into. And while eating salmon can sometimes be a boring experience, after trying this version it will be even more so if you do not get jerk salmon in the future.

The filet is thick and cooked well, the jerk sauce permeates every bite and even gets into the rice it comes with. Properly oily and fragrant, this could make for a good meal to mix everything together with the cabbage and get some of each part in every bite.

While the price tag of the oxtail ($20, below) might be off-putting to some, the true cost of this cut of meat also keeps rising so chefs are forced to raise their prices as well. The good news is that no matter what the price, this dish does not disappoint, the fatty, gelatinous parts and slightly sweet sauces causing a few too many "Mmmmmmms" than normal.

Like all the entrees, the oxtail is served with rice and peas and stewed cabbage, which go so well with all the choices. The chef seems to be well-versed in seafood and offers both a curry shrimp and red snapper that look interesting for next time. You can get the curry chicken with rice as well if you prefer or cannot eat it right away, and the shrimp and chicken are also available in jerk format.

Chef Bernard James also seems to do a lot of catering events, if his menu impresses you enough to show off to your friends. But it is this little window on a high-speed stretch of Normandie that will be returned to over and over again in the future.

๐Ÿ“ 5912 S. Normandie Avenue, Vermont-Slauson, South Los Angeles


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