Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Magically Delicious...



Real food doesn't necessarily make you think. It just fills you up. But when it fills your belly, AND it makes you think, that is one commanding cuisine. I like stews, soups, and the occasional innard or odd meat cooked long and slow in soups and stews. In the old days, I ate a lot of liver. It was cheap, and hearty. Never ate much goat, but the meat of this garbage-eating, rock-balancing, good-but-odd-tasting milk provider, takes on a fantastically gamy taste when cooked right, which it so often is not, like liver. The idea is to bend but not break. The Haitian preparation of foie et bonanne, liver and bananas, satisfies so many cravings at once, if you threw in some peanut butter, it would be a meal even Elvis would have loved. Now that I think of it, some chunky peanut butter might add an amazing layer of flavor, African ground-nut style. But I digress. There are so many great Haitians meals to be had in Miami, but a particularly tasty version of this Kreole Klassic can be had at Chez Merlin AKA Le Jardin Restaurant. This mostly take-out with a few stools is run by a sturdy grann, with a bemused look in her eye, directed, along with a sweet smile, at the wandering white hipster who just strolled in. Of course their specialty is all the amazing breakfasts (including liver-a longstanding tradition in many African and Caribbean countries), and I've come for the foie, which she translates at least four times, not really believing that I understand what I'm ordering. “Liver, yeah, I love liver.” I'm not sure if she smiled politely at that, or rolled her eyes, because I was busy peering into the kitchen. If I get a chance, I always try to look in on any kitchen that's preparing my food. I apologize to the lazy and infirm Dining Critics, who do not feel it is there duty to report on the spot in the restaurant where the food's actually being prepared (or to actually see with one's own eyes the raw food, to discern its freshness), but at some point, I like to make sure I'm not going to be up all night with both ends burning, as we used to say, and seeing a clean kitchen is the first step. The kitchen at Chez Merlin Le Jardin (two names for the price of one-Haitians are always so extravagant when it comes to language) is immaculate. The foie et bonanne is superb, liver done to a rich, tasty crunch that even a liver-ambivalent might love (I know people always say that, and it is usually not true-if you don't like liver, there may be no cure), almost like a fried liver stew; and the banana is starchy backup. The white rice and soupy beans are unexpectedly fluffy and tasty, respectively (god I hate that cliché).. Enough for two and cheap as hell. I've gone back, and the food is consistently good and fresh-tasting, which is not always easy to do with long-cooked dishes, or with liver. There's a lot of construction in the neighborhood, so watch the potholes. Other than that, Bom Bagay!
In fact, tomorrow? Goat Bom Bagay Style...




Chez Merlin Le Jardin is located on NE 78th St, about fifty feet west of NE 2nd Ave., on the right

7 comments:

  1. Bom Bagay!

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  2. Miami Danny email cuz I need axe you a question. Can't seem to find your email...

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  3. I loved it too... I am a strong critic of liver, since it is after all one of my favorite food items, if it is done well, obviously. Le Jardin rocked my boat...BON BAGAY

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