Sunday, February 6, 2011

Vegan Caribbean in Dallas at The Scarlet Ibis

On our own in Dallas we set out to the Scarlet Ibis.  It's in Addison actually and as much of Addison is "modern" strip mall chain restaurants, it was nice to see an independent restaurant.  Although not a Vegan place, when I called earlier and asked if the vegetarian items were vegan I was met with an unhesitating and assured, "Yes!"

The place is set back from  Midway Road so took a second swing through the parking lots to find it's well lit facade.  

Now for the surprise.  Laying in front of me is one of the most relaxing sights I can see in a non-vegan restaurant.  A totally vegan menu.  I'm in culinary nirvana.  I want to point out that this is nowhere to be found on the online menu.  Surprise!

This is not some super slick $15 per entree kind of place.  I went order crazy and with tax my 2 apps and 2 entrees came to just
under $20 (plus tip).

Not a diner, not fine dining, just an honest eatery.
The place is owned by Dad and run by his two sons.  One of them, I found out later, was our waiter.  I have to say that above all this place is bathed in warmth from the staff.  At one point, (I'm assuming it was Dad and Mom), a couple came over and offered us a glass of wine.  I don't know if it was family night or just  a big group but there were about 10 people, (there's a table you can't see in the above pic), all having a great time.  The waiter, (I do apologize for not getting your name), couldn't have been more helpful and the people from the kitchen who came out with the food were very enthusiastic.  This is a happy place.

There were little mistakes made but in the overall scheme of things were mere inconveniences.  Silly things.  All of my food came out first.  This was amusing me but my bud started to get a little anxious.  He takes his food very seriously.  When it finally came his soup was was served in a cup not a bowl.  There was no spoon with it and it took longer than it should have for him to get one.  I'm not sure in this day of white whole wheat flour but I think my pasta was not whole wheat.  It was a little undercooked, (not al dente), and a little stuck together.  I was given 2 takeout containers for my 3 dishes.  Like I said, silly stuff ... but the desire to accommodate was very high.  A bowl of soup was brought immediately and the cup was gratis.  I like when errors are OVER-corrected.  Bringing another cup would have sufficed but this was done right.  This is a place staffed with people who make you feel welcome.

Since I am no expert on any Caribbean food aside from the standard peppery veggie patties I get in NY, and come to think of it I never asked if the dough is vegan, ([sigh] head slap), my comments are about this particular food, not a comparison regarding what one would expect dining on Trinidad or Tobago.

Phoulorie – Small deep-fried balls consisting of flour, corn starch and split peas served in a basket with a side of tamarind sauce.  
The phoulories were like hushpuppies.  I thought they were made from cornmeal but it's chickepea flour.  These have a very dense texture and although I found them edible I didn't really enjoy their toughness.  I did enjoy using them to consume the tamarind sauce which is one of my favorite flavors.

Doubles – A Trinidad & Tobago sandwich specialty comprising of two crispy pieces of small fried bread with a curry chick pea filling.
Since I'd never had doubles before I didn't know what to expect.  The bread was not crispy at all as described on the menu.  I was thinking more like a Poori bread but it had a tough, microwaved consistency.  I tried to cut it in half to share and I had to use the knife to sort of saw through it.  That pushed all the filling out of the sides.  Not very elegant.  I liked the flavor of the curry chickpea filling.  It had a little bite to it.  Not heat but a different bite. I have no idea what it was but overall it was a sandwich if nothing else.  It's very one dimensional in terms of consistency but worth another try.
The salad garnish is a little weak but for 3 bucks, hey.
My first main dishe was the Vegan Roti.  It was served with two dipping sauces, the first a wonderful scotch bonnet chili sauce and the second one I hadn't tasted before, a mango kuchela.  The flavor of the kuchela was totally foreign to me.  It is pickled green unripened mango, spices, vinegar and sweet.  I just ate it.  Well, it sort of came out on the fork in one clump and what the hell, just put it in my mouth and chewed.  Not hot.  Just different.  Pickle-y-ish.

I thought it was the leaves of the mango but everything I can find says green mango.   This taken the next day in the hotel room.

The pasta was square so I thought it was made in house.  I never did get an answer but don't think it looked or tasted like whole wheat.  To me that's just wasted calories.  It was also sort of clumpy and undercooked.

The roti was delicious.  It was filled with cabbage and peppers, onions and carrots and the curry chickpea mash that was in the Double.  The veggies were cooked and still had a little crunch to them, just perfectl.  The only negative was that it was dripping with oil and water as you can see on the plate in the picture below.  It had a nice taste but as usual, I slathered scotch bonnet pepper sauce on it and that just about can sear anything.
The softness of the bread, the mash, and the crunch of the just cooked veggies made this the most texturally interesting dish and my favorite of the evening.
Chili with brown rice.
I also enjoyed the chili.  There was a mashed component and it also had at least 2 different kinds of whole beans that I could identify.  If anything it was a tad on the mushier side of the spectrum but still it had a decent consistency and a great complex taste.  This is a dish where a little cooked seitan or tempeh would have put it over the top texturally.  The rice was also cooked in a broth which brought more flavor to the mixed spoonful.  I didn't actually mix the kuchela in with a bite but then again, I'm going to have to eat all my leftovers for the superbowl ... unless I decide to try another place offering vegan fare instead.
Scarlet Ibis on Urbanspoon

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