844 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, NY 10025
Prices : $12-$23
Service : Excellent
Dining Tip : BYOB
Upper West locals dine-in, sipping their wine as busy cab drivers, mostly Haitian, rush in and out picking up takeout orders. Krik Krak, the only Haitian restaurant in Manhattan, has a discrete red awning and small dining room. It’s both a gem and staple to those seeking Haitian cuisine in Manhattan. Krik Krak offers down-home flavors in all of Haiti’s traditional dishes. The service is simple; yet friendly. Maud Pamphil, Krik Krak’s owner, is often found multitasking: explaining menu items, offering suggestions and delivering food; all with the warmth of a Haitian aunt who is eager to feed you.
As an appetizer, Pamphil suggested the Acra de Malanga; fritters made of grated malanga root and spices. They arrived piping hot over a bed of lettuce and with a side of pikliz; pickled Haitian cabbage, hot peppers and carrots. The acra was fried to perfection – crispy on the outside and firm and spicy on the inside. My hunger was tempered, although I was anxious to see what the remainder of the meal would offer.
Next, the Ecrevisse Creole, Creole shrimp, arrived with fried green plantains, rice, beans and a house salad. The five jumbo shrimp sat in a garlic white sauce with onions and red peppers. The peppery sauce provided the right balance of flavor for the perfectly cooked shrimp.
True to my Haitian-American roots, I put a spoonful of the plantains, rice and shrimp into my mouth. The rice and beans were well-cooked; I expected nothing less from a Haitian restaurant. The plantains were just the way I like them – crispy and mildly salted. When Pamphil came over to check up on the meal, I could barely respond; I was too busy chewing. She smiled, understanding what she already knew – the food was good.
Unable to finish the meal, partly because I wanted room for something sweet, I asked for the dessert menu. Pamphil recommended the rum cake and mentioned having cremas; a milky alcoholic drink. Unable to resist, I ordered both.
The cake was moist, dense and felt as if it was cooling off from being freshly baked in the oven. Its rum flavor was just enough to savor without being overbearing. The cremas was traditional; thick and sweet with an empowering rum flavor.
I left Krik Krak with a full stomach and a smile. Yes, good food makes me happy. However, it made me happier to know that people outside of the Haitian community had an opportunity to experience Haitian cuisine in an atmosphere that represents the true hospitality of the Haitian people.
Marlynne Bidos is a Haitian-American attorney who lives in the New York City area. Her interests include food, travel and humanitarian work.
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