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 V.25 No.7 | February 18 - 24, 2016 

Restaurant Review

Latitude Adjustment

A Taste of the Caribbean brings the ocean to ABQ

A Taste of the Caribbean exterior
2720 Central SE
I've been binge watching The Blue Planet, and I've learned something: The ocean is full of vicious beasts, water trash and terrible smells. Ever seen a black dragonfish? There is no way a just god would allow something like that to exist. Which is probably why, despite the usual migration patterns of the elderly, I've been slowly moving away from the equator my whole life. Thank the stars that you're in New Mexico, dear reader. The desert is like the beach, but without all that disgusting sea.

Yes. And I would have lived out my years landlocked and safe from that terrible watery demon without ever knowing the joys of island food and island people, had A Taste of the Caribbean not come along to show me my short-sightedness.

We'll get to the details on dinner later, but to assuage any feelings of anxiety you might be experiencing: the food was amazing. What I want to talk about first, though, is the people.

I've always had the impression that islanders were easy-going and relaxed. I chalked it up to roadside weed overgrowth and heat exhaustion, but after meeting the employees of A Taste of the Caribbean, it's obviously some kind of laid-back gene that modern science hasn't isolated yet.

Scrutinizing the big, toothy grin of my server—the kind of smile I never see coming from desert people—it took a second to realize that she was asking me a question. “Have you been here before?” I hadn't. She squinted at me. “I was wondering, because of your order.” I'd forgotten what I chose, and panicked a little. “Um,” I said.

“The goat.” She looked at me quizzically as though I'd forgotten my lines. When I failed to answer, probably looking aimlessly around the room with eyes like marbles, she kind of shrugged a little and said, “Well it's fun to try new stuff.” I think I managed a nod, at least.

The curry goat ($12.95) was excellent. Conservatively seasoned, the fatty meat-on-the-bone was tender and delicious. I had been too thick-tongued to tell her, but this wasn't my first goat rodeo. My co-diner ordered the fish with a sharp and tart Creole sauce ($10.95). I really loved this dish, mostly because it was a completely new sensation for me. The fish highlighted the one problem I had, though: an ambiguous menu. The description is simply, “Fish with Creole sauce.” When I asked what the mystery white fish was, no one could remember the name. I'm sure I could have pressed the issue, but I was getting the sense that I had somehow crossed space and time and ended up in the tropics, where the answer is, “Who cares what fish it is. It's good, isn't it?” Oh, how right they were.

Fried plantain, codfish fritters and fried yuca
Fried plantain, codfish fritters and fried yuca
The next day, I braved the obliviously suicidal lunchtime college foot traffic of Central to pick up a Caribbean sandwich ($7.25) and some sweet fried plantain ($5). The melty sandwich was loaded with ham, roasted pork, pickles, cheese, mayo and mustard, and ended up being my personal pick of the joint. And holy shit on a brick, were the plantains good. I wouldn't recommend passing these beauties up. I ended up eating the entire portion in under two minutes.

The comfortable blue and green dining room was empty, despite the lunchtime specials displayed on an easel out front. I got to talking to Ed, my server (and probably cook), about the dangers of goat addiction. In a thick accent, he told me about a guy who kept showing up looking for oxtail ($12.95) (whom I suspect might be the Alibi's own Devin D. O'Leary). I'd never had any, which appalled him, and he disappeared into the kitchen, signaling me to wait for him. When he came back, he was holding out a cup with a chunk of meat floating in a savory brown gravy that came away from the bone in juicy morsels.

Which basically makes Ed a pusher, if you ask me. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I'm an obvious mark, and the ol' “give 'em a taste” routine obviously works on me. And even while I'm here, sparking the interest of a whole new wave of addicts who will join Mr. O'Leary and me, I have to admit that I can't really get too worked up over it. I think I might have caught some of that island attitude. Is that contagious?

Jerk chicken
Jerk chicken

View in Alibi Chowtown Chowtown

A Taste of the Caribbean
2720 Central SE
503-8428
<url>http://www.tasteofthecaribbeannm.com/<;[/url]tasteofthecaribbeannm.com[xurl]
Hours: 11:30am-8pm Monday through Thursday
11:30am-10pm Friday and Saturday
12:30pm-5pm Sunday
Vibe: Chill and beachy
Extras: Talking to the awesome staff
Alibi recommends: Fried plantain, curry goat and Caribbean sandwich

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