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Fat Guy

Best Food in Caribbean

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So which Caribbean nation has the best food? Is it St. Barth's like everybody says, or is there a best-kept-secret?


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Cuba, hands down. Except the best Cuban food can only be found in the States, in particular Miami, so it might be disqualified.

My second would be Jamaica, based solely on my incessant craving for Jerk.

Third would have to be Puerto Rico. Gotta love crab asopao.


Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Restaurant row in Grand Case in St. martin is hard to beat. Maybe not the best single restaurant, but 10-15 all good french, italian, & continental gems, all in a row.

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Where are all the beautiful people? Does anyone go to St. Barth anymore? I can give you a few names there that I went to 4-5 years ago. Our favorite is the Lafayette Club outdoors on the beach (lunch only) that serves nicely-prepared, straight-forward bistro/grilled meat and fish. For more ambitious French food, the Hotel St. Barth-Ile de France was delicious. People make a big deal over the dining room of Le Toiny, but we were quite disappointed in our dinner. There are certainly newer places since my last visit. My info. is stale. I have to think that St. Barth has the best grub down there given that produce is flown in a couple times a week from Paris. I've also eaten at several places in Anguilla, but nothing as pleasureable as what I mentioned above. I actually was looking for someone who has been to Les Saintes, two small islands off of Guadalupe. Anyone been there or Guadalupe itself?

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At the risk of stating the obvious, the cuisines of that region are strikingly diverse, not because the produce varies so much from island to island, but because the political/social histories are so different.

I love Dominican food (which is very close to Puerto Rican).  I can't see that Cuban is superior, but it's certainly different.  Cuba (and Jamaica of course) spice their food with chili.  The Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico do not.  The variety of staples in the Dominican Republic (rice, plantains, yellow bananas, yucca, yautia and beans, as well as potato and bread) gives them great building blocks for their cuisine.  They garnish the staples fairly simply with chicken, superb pork with a depth and richness of flavor I can hardly describe, or fresh seafood if they can afford it.  The Dominicans also make great asapaos.

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Not having been to Cuba is a big handicap  :raz: Most of the cricket playing islands have a fairly

eceletic food. In DR, one needs to go off the beaten path to experience some good food as most of the beach towns have become too touristy. It is interesting to note that many islands import nearly everything from the US.


anil

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I really like Barbados. And not because it’s full of Brits. (Indeed some of the Brits who go there are rather unpleasant.) I last visited July 2000. All comments relate to the west coast. I know a lot can change in 18 months, but here goes, and some of below I posted on chowhound around a year ago.

The Cliff (Derricks, St James). I’ve been there twice and was bowled over both times. It’s a very beautiful restaurant with the waves crashing below and flares lighting the place at night. The chef, Paul Owens, seems to know what he’s doing with fish. I had tuna on both visits. There is a nouvelle aspect to the dishes, but it’s not a drizzle of this and that. It feels more substantial in that just a few concentrated flavors come through. Of note is the fact that the locals--we went with a Barbadian-- not just tourists consider the Cliff to be the island's best. One caveat: we’ve gone there during off-season in July. It’s kind of silly to speak of seasons in this part of the world, as the temperature remains quite stable year round, but , in any case, I imagine that in the winter months, high season, this restaurant might be chock-full of those rather tiresome people mentioned earlier.

The Lone Star (farther north, outside of Holetown) opened around 2 years ago and got some very good reviews. On the basis of one dinner, I thought it was attempting to imitate the Cliff, but not managing. Not that it was bad.

Less expensive places include Olives, in Holetown. This is a reliable spot serving the competent unfussy. There’s a nice comfortable bar upstairs. Holetown is tiny--only a few streets—and there are several good restaurants.

Around Paynes Bay, is the inexpensive Bombas. This is an oceanfront, funky café that makes Bajan fish cakes, that are round, heavy, and deep-fried ( could go some now),  and rotis that pair excellently with ice-cold Banks beer. For lunch, Treasure Beach Hotel has good fish cakes and flying fish sandwiches too, though for dinner I'd go elsewhere. Treasure Beach is a small hotel with a certain non-glitzy charm. I've not tried Oistins which SamanthaF mentioned.

Of all the Caribbean islands I’ve visited--Margarita Island, Venezuela (eons ago), Trinidad (ditto), Martinique (around six years ago, which food-wise was surprisingly a little disappointing)—Barbados has been the best for restaurants.

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........................

Of all the Caribbean islands I’ve visited--Margarita Island, Venezuela (eons ago), Trinidad (ditto), Martinique (around six years ago, which food-wise was surprisingly a little disappointing)—Barbados has been the best for restaurants.

You reaffirm my experience of the cricket-playing islands  :smile:  On a serious note, the venezulians are unsure whether they want to be considered Caribbean because in Maggharita I was made explicitly aware of that distinction.  :raz:


anil

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For the best selection of cuisines and variety of venues, Trinidad is far and away ahead of every other island in the Eastern Caribbean. Martinique, St Barth's and even Puerto Rico have a lot of good places to eat but nowhere does food contribute so much to the quality of life as in Trinidad. Even in the smallest rum shop you can find food that is both good and affordable.

For me a few, or even a handful, of gourmet restaurants don't make an island but when you can get such variety: Chinese, French, Creole, Vietnamese, Thai, Cuban, half a dozen varieties of Indian, to name a few, as well as the famous Trini cuisine there isn't much to argue about.


Edward Hamilton

Ministry of Rum.com

The Complete Guide to Rum

When I dream up a better job, I'll take it.

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Yvonne, If Shack-Shack is still around, do try it on your next trip to Barbados. Open air, sea front terrace,

very interesting menu, well prepared.

 I'll vote for St Barth's. We,too, found our Le Toiny [Le Gaiac] experience very disappointing. Setting is very pretty

but cuisine and service left much to be desired. We didn't find

Eden Roc to be any better although, again, it had a fine location. We love Orchidee, the restaurant of the Hotel Christopher. The pigeon breast is accompanied by a phyllo encased patty of Moroccan spiced dark meat and whatevers.  The lobster w. citrus sections is also very fine.......the

'the hat' is a wonderfully refreshing dessert. This year we will try Francois Plantation and Case de l'isle, both of which have

been recommended. Lafayette Club remains an elegant beachfront luncheon venue as does Indigo restaurant at Hotel Guanahani. For casual lunches, I like the composed salad

platters at La Reserve [or is it Rivera??]. Also, on Thursday,

there is a marina front 'joint' that flies in mussels from

France. A heaping bowl, some frites, some wine.........divine!

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Although it has been a five years since I last was in St. Bart's, I found the food at the Christopher not inspiring, although I agree with the rest of what you say. We enjoyed our two lunches at the Hotel St Bart Ile de France very much. Lafayette Club was  our favorite for lunch: Not cheap, not fancy, but really good and honest and a good setting by the sea. Just be careful not to order anything that attracts lots of bugs. Le Toiny disappointed us as well. Excuse me, I see I wrote all this stuff above.

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We just returned from St Barth's, so I'm offering

an update.

Orchidee/Christopher Hotel--My favorite for the past 4-5

years, this restaurant can move to the bottom of my

list. Menu was changed considerably and while it sounds

more elegant, they don't deliver. My lobster-porcini

ravioli in bisque were quite awful...tastless ravioli smothered

in a dark porcini sauce. Beef stuffed w. foie gras was ok.

All 4 of us were disappointed. Service was by some 'interns' from an oriental restaurant school---rather unusual for a

french restaurant.

Guanahani;

 Lunches at Indigo [poolside restaurant] were excellent. They included interesting choices such as crab w. grapefruit,

seared tuna fillet w. pickled giner & sesame, salad nicoise,

grilled fish and wonderful conch-lobster fritters. The chef is not afraid to use spices such as curry and satay sauces...

also always has a tartare or carpaccio.

 Bartolomeo's [dinner ] has significantly improved and was excellent---lobster carpaccio was a standout. Desserts are interesting [e.g. pistachio mousse baked in a crepe]

Other dinners:

La Case de L'Isle [Hotel Ile de France]--pretentious and

inadequate service....upscale menu & prices.....poor preparation. Beautiful setting but we won't return. Zucchini soup was so salty it was inedible. Pigeon over poweringly

gamey...rack of lamb left; no one inquired.

Francois Plantation--Lovely table settings, Youthful servers.

Interesting menu. Foie gras dishes [both seared on corn cake and terrine] are generous portions and excellent. Rest of

dinner was rather unmemorable although mostly adequate.

Le Gaiac/Hotel Le Toiny--an excellent menu and dinner.

Very expensive. Small portions. Lobster ravioli , moules w buerre blanc. Menu over-describes and many dishes sound 'arty' e.g. veal medallions dusted w. licorice---but the end/served product was quite tasty. Chicken cooked in a bag is a speciality. Crepes are flamed w. cognac.

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I've had some pretty impressive lobsters in the British Virgins. They roast them in sand pits on the beach. Simplicity at it;s best. The Pain Killers don't hurt either.

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I've only been to barbados (3 years ago I think) - wonderful place but very very expensive meal wise. I'll second The Cliff as a stunning place. I do remeber it was very hot & didn't feel like eating much.

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Bumping this to the top as the cricket season is in full swing :smile:Ouch WI

Trinidad ? Jamaica ? Barbados ? I'm planning go see a match and eat my way around town. Any suggestions ?


anil

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Someone asked about Les Saintes. I have stayed in Les Saintes a few times. There a number of French bistros, anyone of which will be good to very good. The night life is nonexistent. Everything is closed by 9:00. Very little English is spoken, and they don't have tourist menues. The tourists are French day trippers from Guadaloupe. It's a wonderful place to spend a very low key week, catching rays and eating your face off. The babies don't cry and the dogs don't bark.

Jim

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I would not say any single cuisine is 'better' or 'worse', just different. The Caribbean is as diverse in its cuisine as it is in its culture and language. I have visited several Caribbean islands: Cuba, San Andres, Honduras Bay Islands, St Vincent and St Lucia and have had excellent food in all of these places. But I live in Santo Domingo and so may be accused of a certain bias. See for yourself: www.dominicancooking.com

Aunt Ilana

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Bumping this to the top as the cricket season is in full swing :smile:Ouch WI

Trinidad ? Jamaica ? Barbados ? I'm planning go see a match and eat my way around town. Any suggestions ?

Yet another Bump - Enland in WI - March through May - Kingston,Port-of-Spain,Brigetown,Antigua,Georgetown,St. George & St. Lucia Full Tour details here - Anyone want to join or get together for evening of beer and grub in Barbados or Trinidad ? I plan to get atleast an ODI or 3rd day of a test match.


anil

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Jamaica, hands down! I had some of the best lobster ever with the food critic of the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper Rosemary Parkinson at a shack in Negril called 3 dives....very simple stuff, pluck em out of the sea, split em, grill em and cover em in garlic butter...served with rice and beans and a nice view of the ocean.....20 bucks for 3 lobsters! On the other side of the coin I have also had a wonderfull couple of meals at Julia's high up in the hills of Montego Bay. Full on formal with white jackets on the staff and service on the veranda, with the most amazing view!....Damn, its been 6 months and now I need to go back again!

My avatar is of me in the ocean in Negril


Edited by Chris Cognac (log)

Moo, Cluck, Oink.....they all taste good!

The Hungry Detective

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...On the other side of the coin I have also had a wonderfull couple of meals at Julia's high up in the hills of Montego Bay. Full on formal with white jackets on the staff and service on the veranda, with the most amazing view!..

I hold Julia's as a place where you go on a romantic interlude :wink: , Food is incedentl, and ambiance is just right .

[OT: Worth while if ya wanning to repair a relationshp....]


anil

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Jamaica, hands down! I had some of the best lobster ever with the food critic of the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper Rosemary Parkinson at a shack in Negril called 3 dives....very simple stuff, pluck em out of the sea, split em, grill em and cover em in garlic butter...served with rice and beans and a nice view of the ocean.....20 bucks for 3 lobsters! On the other side of the coin I have also had a wonderfull couple of meals at Julia's high up in the hills of Montego Bay. Full on formal with white jackets on the staff and service on the veranda, with the most amazing view!....Damn, its been 6 months and now I need to go back again!

My avatar is of me in the ocean in Negril

3 dives sounds great! My husband and I are visiting Negril next month and will check it out. Can you tell me whereabouts it is?

Any other good places in Negril? My parents go to Negril every year but are no help as they tend to go the cheap route and cook for themselves or pick up jerk from the roadside grills (not that there's anything wrong with that but we're hoping for a few romantic dinners...).


My eGullet foodblog: Spring in Tokyo

My regular blog: Blue Lotus

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