Restaurant Review

Next Stop, Caribbean Flavors

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Issue Date 7/25/03

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Caribbean Flavors
90-63 Sutphin Blvd., Jamaica

Cuisine: Caribbean

Hours: 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day

There’s a lot of hope around downtown Jamaica, where the AirTrain JFK station is set to go, at Sutphin Boulevard and Archer Avenue.

A lot of people are expecting the new airport shuttle service, scheduled to start by the end of the year, to bring a lot of tourist dollars — and stomachs — to the neighborhood.

Ready to meet that need, on Sutphin just a few steps from the station, is the new Caribbean Flavors Roti Shop.

The restaurant, acquired by its owners last month, promises an expanded menu, better food and nicer service than its previous incarnation, another Caribbean restaurant called Trinidad Roti.

A recent visit confirmed the improvements.

The food at the restaurant is, on the whole, rather spicy and tart.  The effect is refreshing and light, something not all Caribbean restaurants can pull off well.

The Doubles Aloo Pie, for just a couple of bucks, is a great starter.  Doubles are little four-inch pieces of fried bread; “aloo” is a local word for potato.  The bread is sweet and moist, while the filling — fresh potatoes and chick peas in a tart dressing — provides a nice contrast.

The crab and dumplings make an excellent light meal; the crab meat, while a little hard to get to, is very soft and while it’s distinctly Caribbean in flavor, you can still taste the ocean in it.  It’s great for seafood lovers.

Then of course there’s the roti.

The restaurant’s half-dozen kinds of roti — baked bread laced with lentil crumbs and rolled around chunks of meat and potatoes — are its most popular items.  King of that list is the beef roti because it’s boneless and easy to eat like a sandwich.

Chicken, goat, shrimp, oxtail and potato roti are also available; all the rotis are between $4 and $6.

The roti is most popular with the restaurant’s Trinidadian customers; its Jamaican customers favor the oxtail entreé with rice and peas, said owner Angele Burke.

The meat, rice and peas dinners, made with the same ingredients as the rotis, cost between $4 and $9.

Breakfast is often busy at the restaurant, which opens at 7 a.m. and sells saltfish more than anything else that time of day.

There isn’t much to choose for dessert, but homemade root drinks like sorrel root and Irish moss are as thick, sweet and drinkable as shakes.

The restaurant is currently trying to expand with a liquor license, and Burke wants to remodel the interior and turn it into an indoor beer garden, she said.

And in case food isn’t your thing, the restaurant serves as a musical resource for the Caribbean community, too.

As a hold-over practice from the previous restaurant, Caribbean Flavors sells not just Caribbean CDs, but movies on tape and DVD and records on vinyl.

And in a practice common in Caribbean restaurants, the place has a small bakery and grocery section, selling many of the ingredients you’d need to make great food – like the stuff produced in its kitchen.

– Shams Tarek

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