Monday, January 21, 2008

I've been recording Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations on the DVR lately and Friday night I watched a few episodes. Bourdain's globe-trotting gourmand schtick gave me a taste for something exotic, and I decided to go somewhere interesting for dinner Saturday night. Oddly enough, I found Queen of Sheba restaurant [Ethiopian] driving up Inwood north of 635 Friday afternoon. It's up in Addison now, but when I went there about 20 years ago, or so, they were on Lemmon avenue between McKinney and Cole. After they packed up from Lemmon, I never knew where they went. Anyway, I'm vowing to break out of eating the usual stuff - I think I'm missing out by not trying new and different foods that are to be found here.

Carribbean Grill at the SW corner of Belt Line and Webb Chapel fit the bill perfectly Saturday night(I wasn't keen to sit on the floor in my cowgirl boots at the Ethiopian joint). CG is a Cuban venue, and I ordered something the name of which I can't begin to remember. The dish consisted of braised beef steaks in a very tomatoey sauce with fried plaintains, white rice and gorgeously seasoned black beans on the side. Honestly, that's the first time I've really liked black beans. The beef wasn't a superlative cut, but all the stuff it was smothered in was fresh and delicious, so it sorta didn't matter too much. I like the way they really fried the plaintains. I love Texas de Brazil, but I think it's insipid to fry bananas but not bring them to the point of caramelization on the outside. I mean, otherwise, they're just hot and full of grease -- what's the point? Anyway, this very much reminded me of Mexican food, only much cleaner and fresher-tasting. And sauced, spiced tomatoes with white rice and fried bananas is one of the best flavor combinations in the world, in my humble opinion. Even better with scrambled eggs. I know it sounds revolting, but it's long been a favorite. The acid of the tomatoes is foiled by the sweetness of the bananas, which compliments the saltiness, and then of course the white rice brings a wonderful starchy body to the party. I first saw this combination in a Greek cookbook about 25 years ago, and it's been one of my abiding affections, this combination. Oh, and you need some garlic in there, too. Yum. Garlic.

Sorry. I drifted off there, for a moment. I'll go on in case someone is still reading:

Halfway through my meal, a sweet little older lady came up to me and started speaking Spanish, and I said "Do you speak English?" and she and I sort of grinned and gestured at each other as she handed me her daughter's business card. A few minutes later, her daughter, Aura, came over to tell me they were here in Texas promoting this new energy company, and that they live in New Jersey. She had this gorgeous, smoky sort of voice, and it was just fun to hear her talk. I told her I'd look their program up on the net and consider it. Funny, in a lot of other contexts, I would have recoiled from a vaguely sales-pitchy approach, but actually it was very casual and chatty, and not just about selling, it seemed. I really liked them.

The meal was amazing, and I was thrilled with my choice for the evening. The music they played was like a younger, hipper Buena Vista Social Club, sort of Danzón-esque, and all the while, technicolor visions of vintage Jordan-Almond-colored cars danced through my head. As I was leaving, Aura hollered across the restaurant "Goodbye, Rita!" and I loved just hearing her say my name. That was fabulous. All that good food and casual chat and I never mentioned the most famous Cuban in the world.

If you live in the area, definitely go check it out.


Christina LMT said...

I have food envy. I ate a bowl of Cocoa Pebbles for dinner.

Who is..... Carteach0? said...

Excellent, flavorful, description..

I used to live near Tampa. Cuban restaurants by the handful...
Some folks shied away, saying the area was too dangerous. I never had problem one... always met good people.

rice con leche... breakfast as far as I'm concerned. Black beans and rice for lunch, with a pair of those crusty cuban rolls. HHMMMmmmm....... only one place around here that has that stuff. It's not the same nationality, but the food is close enough to cry for. "La Familia" in downtown Lancaster. They speak English enough I can get by, and pointing at what I want while groaning says everything I need to say...

DBA Dude said...

Sounds like you had a completely spiffing Saturday night out - the ambience sounds great.

Think that I understand the tomato/banana combination not that I have ever experienced it.

Once had a banana desert that was mouth watering - they had been slit open and stuffed with what you call whoppers and we call maltesers, they were then wrapped in tin foil and put on the barbeque until caramelised.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Mmmmmmmmmm! That sounds like a great dining experience, something to please all the senses.

It rather makes my lunch here seem insipid, especially since the bread had gone moldy and I had to take a stale naan.

Rabbit said...

Dang, I was just reading the review for Q. of S. on this morning. I ate there years ago back on Lemmon and loved it. Of course, that was a wife ago, and she, of course, didn't .

I guess sometime I'll have to make a swing past Carribean Grill. I go past there a couple of times a week when I'm looking for lunch.


Buck said...

Dang. Every time I read a post like this... every single freakin' time... I ask myself "Why are you still here in this lil podunk town?" WHY?

And the self refuses to answer... aside from letting me know that I'm hungry, of course.

Mushy said...


Ain't that fun to say out loud!

DirtCrashr said...

I have Babalu on MP3 - but it's sung by Yma Sumac - from the Ultra Lounge CD Mondo Exotica.

Lin said...

Wow - you just brought back a long buried memory about horses and hunches, of all things. I just remembered when my mother couldn't get "Little Ricky" off her mind all day. Since my father had a horse running that night, she went to the track with him and saw a long shot "Babalu" in the program and thought "Eureka, that's it!" Of course, dad laughed her off, she declined to bet and it came in to win big. Great memory nudge ... thanks!