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Sep 16, 2007 07:55 AM

Caribbean Bistro - New @ Yng & Eg (long)

A void was left after Island Foods was forced to leave the neighbourhood about a year ago (?), and it was back to mundane takeout.

However, a couple of weeks ago, walking along Yonge, just south of Erskine, I noticed that the Chopstix awning was covered by a new sign -- Caribbean Bistro. I scurried over and indeed, a new island cuisine establishment had moved in.

Since it's fairly new, its advertised hours haven't quite taken hold (Mon- Fri 11am-10pm; Sat 4-10 pm and Sun 4-10 pm). Signs denote that they are closed on Sun in September and once I tried to go later in the evening on a week night but alas, it was already closed though I did spy someone in the kitchen.

Yesterday, late Sat morning, I wandered by hoping it was open, since I was famished and I didn't want to do Yummie's again. And to my surprise and delight, it was.

I went in and there was one table occupied by a woman with three young girls. As I perused the whiteboard that listed bistro offerings, a pleasant black woman, (the owner?) doing double duty as server and cook, greeted me.

In addition to the rotis (beef, chicken, shrimp, channa, veggie) and rice dishes (oxtail, jerk chicken), she mentioned a few items that weren't there, such as chicken and red beans. I opted for the chicken roti and when I asked for hot sauce, she beamed and claimed she has the best hot sauce.

While I waited for my order, an order of Pad Thai was brought over to the seated patrons with a promise that the spring rolls were also coming. I was a bit bemused by this but there was indeed an asian cook in the kitchen as well, and perhaps there was some crossover deal from the previous establishment to have some asian fare as well.

When the woman came back with my order, I noticed a pile of puffed, deep fried items on a serving plate on the counter. The woman told me it was Fried Bake, but not being familiar with that, I asked her what it was. She tried to explain it to me but seeing my puzzled expression, she grabbed one of them, tore off a piece and said, "Try it, try it!" It turned out to a savoury dough that had been deep fried, and thus was somewhat like a bready doughnut that is supposedly used to sop up stews and curries.

In the end, I also ordered a Doubles and told her to wrap up the other piece of Fried Bake as well. The total price was about $14, which is rather pricey - advertised prices: boneless Chicken Roti ($8.95), Doubles ($2.95), Fried Bake ($2.00) -- she actually charged me slightly less since my total also included tax. As I grabbed a takeout menu, she mentioned that she was still trying to sort out the prices (subject to change), and some of the items on the menu were not yet available -- like Stewed Fish and Curried Duck. Some notable items on the take out menu: Potato Pie, Sahiena, Baiganee, Phulourie (all deep fried items); Callaloo, Fried Plaintain, and homemade Cassava Pone.

Now the taste test -- The Doubles was disappointing, since the two fried flat breads were just mooshed with the channa. I suspect that she fried them up as I was waiting and they were too hot when she wrapped them up. The roti was plump and juicy, with succulent pieces of dark and white meat jumbled together with the potatoes in the nicely seasoned curry. She was right though -- the green pepper hot sauce was really good.

I'm happy Caribbean Bistro is in the hood because in a pinch, it satisfies an urge for island fare, without making a trek to some other area. I may not grab a roti or doubles as often as I did at Island Foods, since it's a bit more expensive, but hopefully the prices will balance out, the quality stabilizes and stays high.

Caribbean Bistro
2439 Yonge (south of Erskine)
416 480-1581

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  1. I work right across the street from the Caribbean Bistro. When we realized that Chopstix was closing that that this was going to open, everyone was stoked. We used to send employees to Island Foods when it was at Mt. Pleasant and Eg. We were all bummed when they moved. We were all sastified with the food from Caribbean Bistro, but we miss Island Foods pricing, which was about $3 bucks less for a Chicken Roti....oh well, I guess it's just the times

    1. I've been walking by this place for weeks but haven't quite been able to stomach the prices given that I've been born and raised on Island Foods.

      I wanted a snack today and decided to pop in for doubles. They were piping hot (not microwave hot... freshly fried hot). The chickpeas had a nice seasoning to them. I'm not a doubles expert but as a stand alone food they were good.

      The people who own the shop/work there are really nice as well which is refreshing.

      going to give them a try for a roti in the near future.

      my neighbours swear by this place.

      1 Reply
      1. re: wontonfm

        I finally went back to try their rotis and was not disappointed at all. I bought the chicken roti for myself and my mom got the goat roti. The chicken was delicious (and so was the hot sauce). A mix of white and dark meat and REALLY packed in there. More chicken than potato and the whole thing wasn't too "juicy". My mom enjoyed the goat a lot too. I thought it was good but could have been a tad softer... but then again goat is just of those meats.

        I will definitely be returning when I don't feel like trekking out to Island Foods. This place would see me at least once a week if their prices were about $2 lower. At IF a channa roti is about $4.27 while this place is $6.95. Goat roti at IF is around $6 and at this place they are $8.95. It's not that the food isn't worth the money but I take issue with paying more than I have to.

        I hope this place sticks around.

      2. Have to chime in to agree that the hot sauce on the rotis at Caribbean Bistro is especially tasty and the women who served me were very nice.

        The channa roti is $6.95 and comparable in price to the eggplant-channa-spinach roti I get at Island Foods, so I didn't notice the price issue so much. It's nice to have a Caribbean place in the neighbourhood again, and I'll definitely return.

        2 Replies
        1. re: marigrrl

          You know there is another Caribbean place in the neighbourhood - it's just hidden.

          Output Restaurant on the 3rd floor of the Canadian Tire building at 2180 Yonge St.

          They have rotis and other Trini specials at lunch but best of all is the Carribean breakfast on Wednesdays and Fridays. You get two Sada rotis, squash, stew tomatoes, saltfish and tomato, and eggplant and potato for $2.92 (tax incl).

          The hot sauce is not for the weak.


          1. re: mariecollins

            thanks for the tip! are they only open duringb regular business hours (9 to 5)?

        2. Went there yesterday. Had the rice and peas with stew beef while the other person had the chicken roti. They were both great and we will definitely be trying new thing on the menu. It's true that they don't have a few things as advertised on the menu, hopefully that will change soon.

          1. Has anyone been to Caribbean Bistro lately? If so, what have your recent experiences been like?

            Has anyone tried the doubles lately? I'm hoping they've improved since Degustation's initial review in October 2007.

            2 Replies
            1. re: phoenikia

              I had a chance to try the pholourie, doubles, plantain and chicken roti at Caribbean Bistro last Friday.

              The doubles were thinner than most I've found in TO, but my Trinidadian friend thought they were exactly like the ones she remembers eating in Trinidad. The seasoning in the channa was just right. The roti was a generous serving, full of moist, boneless chicken and potato, dotted with homestyle pepper sauce. The roti skin was fresh. The pholourie were light, and the best I've found since the late 90s.

              Everything was delicious- the closest I've found to homestyle West Indian food in TO. The people running this place are friendly, and the service was quick and polite.

              The chicken roti ($8.95) costs a couple dollars more than the version at Island foods or Ritz, but I thought the taste and quality were significantly better. Considering the high food quality and the location, I found the prices to be extremely reasonable. Many W.I. restaurants in TO tend have a fast food or cafeteria atmosphere, so it was nice to find a comfortable place where you can sit and enjoy a West Indian dinner over an hour or two, without feeling rushed.

              Our meal came to roughly $50 for 3 people (2 doubles, 1 order plantain, 1 order pholourie (12), 3 rotis, 3 drinks) before tax. They don't have a liquor license, but they do serve Ting and Ginger beer.

              I can't wait to return.

              1. re: phoenikia

                I dropped there the other day and the food was real decent. First of all, the owner has a great personality and is extremely professional. And they have buss-up-shot! For those of you who aren't familiar with this term, it's the puffy-version of the unwrapped roti skin without the peas. It is the ultimate way to eat a roti. Make sure to wash your hands first.

                My dining companion had the stew beef (I believe) and absolutely loved it. I read folks complaining about the price. Based on the location and service, I was super good with the bill. Dinner for two came to around $40 with a $6 tip (or something so).

                The owner recommends the jerk chicken. I plan on diving into the curry duck (with buss-up-shot, of course). I don't think you can lose.