279 Flatbush Ave
Ah, Brooklyn; so much can be said about this part of the city. Years ago, Brooklyn used to be a place that only the brave would dare visit; now, Brooklyn is the place to be and be seen! With downtown Brooklyn pretty much becoming an extension of downtown Manhattan (think Williamsburg, Greenpoint, etc) people are coming here by the droves. So, for those who are less traveled in this “super borough”, where do you go for a good time? My suggestion? A good launch point would be Kombit restaurant on St. Marks (if you get off on Bergen st, you’re pretty much a quick walk away). I know what you’re thinking…Kombit? “What does it all mean Basil?” (a little Austin Powers reference, I couldn’t help it), well, I’d be more than happy to clue you in. See, for those of you who aren’t Haitian (such as myself) Kombit is a system like many others. Like here for example, we have Capitalism (or so we say), Europe has mixed Socialism, and China/Russia/North Korea have Communism; well Haiti has Kombit. Basically, it is a system where a whole community works towards a common goal, and this is evident once you walk in the front door of the restaurant.
When I first walked in, before I could even get a good look at the place, I was immediately greeted by one of the staff members, which I can honestly say is something I’m not accustomed to living in NYC. The restaurant isn’t massive, but that’s actually something that works to it’s advantage. It kind of reminds me of the set of the show Cheers, if they were in a bar/restaurant, and everyone was of Caribbean descent. To the left on back are a row of tables, and to the right is a long, nicely stocked bar which is where I found Justice (one of the owners) serving up drinks to the bar folk and engaging them in conversation. He’s a tall fellow with a friendly smile, and dreadlocks so long, they made mine feel self conscious; he told me that I had arrived just in time, because on Fridays, they have a live band performing, and they were just getting heated up! The crowd was a pretty good mix of people, mostly somewhere between their mid to late 20’s and early to mid 30’s; judging by their attire and the way they carried themselves, the crowd seemed to be professionals and artsy types, but very classy making the environment feel inviting and buzzing with good vibes courtesy of the libations served up by Justice. So after getting a good feel for the scene, I pulled up a seat at the bar, ordered a tall refreshing glass of Passion fruit juice and took a look at the menu while the band started playing some Haitian/Carribean infused Jazz/Reggae tunes.
The menu isn’t some huge college textbook like it is in some other establishments that I’ve been to, but for two pages it still had a nice selection; nice enough to have me indecisive for probably 20 minutes (or what felt like 20 minutes) because everything looked delicious! While I’m not one to eat red meat, some of the appetizers and main dishes looked and smelled so good (especially as the plates were passing by me to go to someone else) I was almost tempted to try; thankfully they have dishes to cater to vegetarians/pescetarians as well. For the appetizer, I ordered the Akra (pictured below) which is Taro seasoned with herbs, breaded and fried to a crispy golden brown accompanied with what I believe was a fermented vegetable dressing on the side. I could be wrong, but either way it was delicious, and its spicy/vinegary flavor complements the earthy flavor of the fried Taro.
Not five minutes after I was licking the last bit of Akra flavor off of my lips, my main dish marched its way in front of me, and I wish I could’ve taken a photo of it, but the the sight and smell of the blackened salmon I ordered took over my better judgement as the fragrant aroma wafting up to my nose seductively saying “eat me”. Now before I go any further, I just want to make something clear. I eat a lot of fish…I mean, a loooooot of fish, so you can imagine my disapointment when I go somewhere to eat blackened fish, and instead get a charcoal briquette. Kombit is one of the few places where I’ve ordered blackened fish, and it was actually blackened, not burnt! The salmon was perfectly cooked, and was delicious with its blend of Cajun spices. It was accompanied by plantains and rice with beans which was….ugh, the most delicious rice and beans I’ve ever had! I know a lot of Spanish restaurants may resent me for this, but this wouldn’t be much of a review if I wasn’t honest. The rice and beans was well seasoned and had this lip licking garlic flavor that had me considering ordering my meal again to take home, and I almost never do that. The best part is, the serving size was just right; not too much where it’ll have you feeling like if someone tied a string around you, you might float (although you may experience a sense of gluttony after eating the food), but not too little where you’re looking out the window for the nearest McDonald’s.Finally came the part which I’m sure many of you were wondering about, especially since I was sitting at the bar the whole time…the drinks! Kombit has happy hour specials, and a good assortment of bottles. They also have a couple of in house specialty drinks one of which I tried called the Port au Princess.
When I asked Justice about the name, he said the drink was made in honor of the capital of Haiti (Port au Prince). The drink tastes like a punch, but with a Caipirinha base which made it pleasantly sweet; but don’t let the sweetness fool you, thank drink was grooving to the music all the way down its trip to my liver. To add onto that booze infused groove fest, Justice had graced me with a drink of his own he simply called “the red light special” (pictured below); now I’m not too sure if this is something that was on the menu or not, but if not you should definitely ask for it by name…that…drink…was…GOOD! Overall, the whole experience was outstanding. I really can’t find anything wrong with Kombit (and believe me I always look for something). The environment was great, the people friendly, the food..ugh, the food…all in all, it is a great place to go if you’re looking for great food, great drinks, and great fun. The best part is, after you’ve had a good meal and a few drinks, you can cross the street to hit one of the bars and throw it all up, giving you a reason to come back and savor the flavor again…going in though, not out. So check out Kombit, and as always, tell ’em Da Undercard sent you, you’ll be glad you did.