by Jin Park.
It is often challenging to try new things. To sign up for physical training, to ask someone out on a date, and so many others. For me, eating at Trinidad gourmet was a whole new experience, because this was actually the first time I had ever eaten Caribbean cuisine. Before eating at that place, the closest thing to Caribbean food I ever ate was probably cheap meat patties that you can get from 7-11. Although I quite liked those cheap protein filled piles of goo, I had quite a mixed feeling with this “Trinidadian” cuisine. Not angry or disappointed, like when your drive-through lady screwed up your order, but mixed, like having hard feelings about caviar even though you know it is supposed to be gourmet.
Let me first get a few things straight: There is no problem with the environment or service. People were friendly enough and although the place was close to one of Baltimore’s shady spots, the actual environment around the restaurant is not all that bad. There are bookstore and small antique shop near the restaurant which add to that feeling of safe, hometown culture. The interior is moderate and they do things at least averagely. Then, a person might ask me, why is your feeling mixed about this place? I can answer to that question by saying “it just was not my cup of tea.”
I really don’t remember the name of the combo, but mine included jerked chicken, rice, saute’d vegetable, and fried plantains. The problem started from the beginning. As I swallowed the first bite, there was a rush of different spices. Not the hearty and rich like that you can feel in the Indian food, but more of harsh and bitter taste that quite cause a cacophony in your mouth. It does an excellent job at hindering the unpleasant smell that all meat somewhat have, but I have to judge its too much when it also completely hinders the taste of chicken too. As I chewed the food, I was confused as to whether I was eating a chicken or chicken textured something else. I know, I know. Because of the hot weather and limited resources, Caribbean cuisine has distinct flavors. But I think it’s too overpowering, a comparable example can be old French cuisine that once flooded their food with heavy cream. But for the new comers, this is completely overwhelming, and unfortunately I had to throw the food out because I couldn’t eat another bite.
The complementary food was also just mediocre. Fried plantain was okay, but comparing with the plantain chips I had in a cheap Chinese buffet, the quality was about the same, if not worse. The sauteed vegetable was nothing special, cheap stuff that you can see in a mall food court teriyaki joint. So none of the other food items interested me. In the reviews the place is excellent, but I don’t know about that. Either that place is too authentic so that it only targets the niche population, or the overall food was complete crap. I do not think the latter view is true, so I’m assuming that they did not localize the food very well so that a stranger to Caribbean food would lose appetite even though he skipped breakfast before that meal. Although the service was relatively decent and the personality of the owners were interesting, if the food is not up to par then there is no reason for me to go back for more. So all “I” can say about this play is just plain simple “Meh.”
But in all fairness, I’m not in a good position to judge the quality of this restaurant. Unfortunately, I never liked spice blends because they are way too strong and often hinder the nature of the food itself. As a result, I never liked African and Caribbean cuisine. Also, I only tried part of their food and maybe some other stuff would simply dazzle me. However, my point of view also does represent the people who are not interested in nor tried the Caribbean style of cooking. So I’m sorry that I cannot be more helpful, but the only thing that I can say about this place is it can be a hidden gem for those who like it. However, if you are completely new, I would suggest to try cheaper frozen food first and check whether you like the spice blend or not. I think $12 is too much of a waste for the food that you would have mixed feeling about.