February 15, 2005
For an infusion of Caribbean spice, Kalalu is the restaurant to visit. On a second-level storefront on St. Denis, not long before it intersects with Mont-Royal, the restaurant/bar is located in the heart of the international dining scene in Montreal. Inside, Kalalu offers some comfortable couches as a waiting area for guests, a full bar with a variety of creative cocktails, and candlelit dining.
Caribbean food has several cultural influences--Asian, African, Indian, French, and Spanish–-as a result of all the peoples that came to inhabit these islands. Kalalu’s particular specialty is Haitian food. Like many Americans, I have never had the opportunity to taste Haitian cuisine, although Cuban and Jamaican are quite popular.
To start our meal, we ordered cigares creoles. These resembled the popular Tex-Mex appetizer, the taquito. This concoction of beef and pork was rolled up in a fried egg roll and served with a spicy sauce. I ordered one of their signature Exotic cocktails, the Manguorange–-a juice-filled rum drink served with an umbrella and a cherry.
Our waitress recommended the shango, a salmon fillet with rice, over the vindaloo (more of a pasta dish). My partner ordered the shango, and I asked the waitress what she thought of the lambi. She responded with delight that it was her favorite dish. The lambi is a traditional Haitian dish: stewed conch meat served with red beans and rice and chips of mashed plantain. Conch meat is a shellfish but has a strong, meaty texture. It took the spicy sauce very well. The mashed plantain was delicious, and I even enjoyed the more subtle flavors of the red beans and rice.
For dessert, we shared another signature dish–-a bread pudding made with some very tropical ingredients.
The portion sizes were perfect, as they usually are in Montreal. We were able to try several delicious items on the menu without feeling overly stuffed. The waitstaff was quite attentive, and we received a second bread basket without asking when we finished our first, frequent water refills, and our check as soon as we showed signs of wanting it. We were also seated very quickly, considering we had not made reservations. I would definitely go here again, although, being located next to another favorite restaurant, Fonduementale, it would be a difficult choice to make.
From journal Trips Over the Border