Carribean Pan - Dallas - Trinidad Cuisine
After watching the episode of Bizzarre Foods with Andrew Zimmerman on the Travel Network (following Anthony Bourdain) on his recent trip to Trinidad and Tobago, I wondered if there was even a place that would exist. Now it does in the form of Carribean Pan on Forest about a half block east of Webb Chapel. It is in a newly constructed building nestled in between a Golden Corral and a pediatric dentist office. My wife and I were actualyl ready to feast on some thai at Thai-riffic in the same shoppign center as Carribean Grill. Tehy had a sign that they were closed from Dec. 26th (today) until Jan. 2nd.
Back to to Andrew Zimmerman episode (minus the fresh iguana and souse) the food at Carribean Pan was identical to the food he mentioned on the episode. The doubles (two fried bread discs seasoned with tumeric (bara) are filled with a curried chickpea (garbanzo bean) mixture (channa)) were fresh out of the kitchen hot. The bara was perfectly fried not over cooked or greasy and the channa was blazing hot off the stove. The both combined to make a heavenly snack/meal you could every have. A curry dish (similar to the ones on the Indian buffets you sometimes pass up) with some fried bread, what could be better?
My wife and I ordered the lunch specials which come with two sides. There were three choices of lunch specials and five sides. The lunch specials included jerk chicken (two legs with jerk seasonings), curried bone-in chicken (I guess if you like the chicken pieces at First Chinese BBQ then you wont mind) about 2-3 legs hacked into indeterminable pieces stewed in a mild curry sauce, and stewed chicken (which from my understanding sounds like what it is) stewed dark meat chicken. The sides included: red beans and rice, sauteed cabbage (still retained crispness), curried potatoes, fried plaintains, and mixed vegetables with rice. We ordered the jerk chicken with red beans and rice and fried plaintains and curried bone-in chicken with curried potatoes and the cabbage.
My wife and I both agreed that we liked all the sides but the curried potatoes and cabbage were our favorites. Out of the lunch specials we were mixed (eventough I was sick with a head cold), I liked the jerk chicken and she like the curried chicken. The jerk chicken had enough seasoning to make the bird sing harmony in your mouth but after about a minute the pepper (scotch bonnet or habanero) came through and scalded the tounge and created a frantic search for your drink. Although the jerk chicken was a bit cold (being a cold day and about an hour or so after opening with probably no customers for the day) I could understand. I have had worse (that was my only complaint) at other restaurants in town. The jerk chicken seemed to be cooked in an oven (oven roasted??) instead of stewed like Elaine's. My wife like the curried bone-in chicken much better after her mouth was scalded by the intensity of the pepper on the jerk chicken. The curried chicken was much more mild than say the same dish at an Indian eatery. It was a nice changed if you like Indian food but sometimes don't want the pepper burn or intensity. We also got two drinks/soft drinks that are native to the islands in the carribean; one coconut water (the gentleman helping us choose what to order recommended it if I needed energy) and one ginger beer from Jamaica. The ginger beer was less intense than the one we got at Elaine's and the coconut water was great and not sugary or carbonated (still wating on the energy). I have tried Red Bull before and I prefer the coconut water by far over Red Bull. The coconut water had a mild sugar taste and a great coconut finish with a few small pieces of coconut jelly floated in. Although I was nearing full capacity and my wife was already there, I decided to ask her to have the gentleman tell us about his dessert selection. We ended up getting the coconut roll (it tastes very similar to a cinnamon roll with a sugary center about the size of a nickel filled with a brown sugar, cinnamon and coconut concoction).
To sum it all up we thoroughly enjoyed our meal at Carribean Pan and look forward to bringin some people back and spreading the word. Our meal with two lunch specials, two carribean drinks, a order of doubles, and a dessert was about $21. Not bad for all the food we tried. The gentleman who helped us was a bit soft spoken but he was happy to hear that we enjoyed our food, also glad I filled out a satisfaction survey, and excited that I might bring some folks back. If any of you are int eh area of the Cinemark on Webb Chapel and Forest I would hit this place before or after a movie there.
I have attached the website below if you would like to check out the menu.
I'm a Caribbean fan. The music, the cultures, the many cuisines. I've traveled to Trinidad & Tobago 3 times, Jamaica 9 times, and St. Vincent & The Grenadines once, this past summer. Out of all of these places, Trinidad weighs heaviest in my heart and soul. It's partly the soca tunes, the patois and diverse cultures of T&T, and most definitely the fusion of Indian and Creole cuisine that exists there.
Well, Caribbean cuisine in Dallas is a rare commodity. As my screen-name suggests, Caribbean eats are a common occurrence in my kitchen. I've had to learn to cook Carib dishes since there are so few public eateries in DFW. I cook up roti on my tawa and fry up doubles bara almost every weekend at home. To me, Creole/Caribbean cuisine is a way of life.
That said, I did try the Caribbean Pan after hearing an advertisement for it on Mike D' Magician's Caribbean music show on Dallas' KNON 89.3 FM. To be honest, I was happy to see a Trini-style lime spot in Dallas, but the food left me very disappointed. I had their doubles and they are nothing like true doubles that you'd find on the streets of St. James in Trinidad -- or even like the ones outside at Piarco International Airport, T&T. The Caribbean Pan doubles featured "crunchy" bara bread that had too much masala in dough and were literally arranged as a sandwich -- one bara on top and another underneath a layer of thick, bland channa masala. Not even kutchela improved the experience for me. Doubles are street food. There's 2 pieces of bara, but they are arranged flat, with about a third of each overlapping each other. The channa is juicy and spooned out over both pieces of the bakes and usually topped with chadon benni sauce or kutchela -- maybe even some hot mango pickle or congo pepper sauce.
I also tried the Caribbean Pan's rice and peas which were [okay] and their callaloo, which had a great flavor, but was literally cool in temperature. The way they've got their operation set up with the buffet-style tubs and Bunsen burner-type warming equipment, seems to not be the best way to serve up their dishes.
I was going to try the roti, but it took so long (20 minutes) to get just the 3 items I ordered, I decided to forfeit the roti idea. They weren't [that] busy. Maybe they had a big phone order they were dealing with?
The owner(s) were very nice and pleasant, although -- they are Canadian -- not Trinis. They are all from Winnipeg. I think the only Trini in the house is the cook -- I believe she's the only Caribbean in the Pan. I find it hard she isn't able to top Piarco's doubles man!
However, I am glad the Caribbean Pan exists. Hopefully it will give the DFW public an idea that jerk seasoning isn't the only thing to come from the Caribbean -- and to let folks know that Trinidad cuisine is totally different than Jamaica.
The best Caribbean cuisine I've had is in Plano at A Taste Of The Islands, located at Spring Creek at Alma Rd. The owner is from Guyana, which if you're familiar with T&T (Trinidad & Tobago) then you know there's also a large Indian/Creole population with similar dynamics to that of T&T in Guyana. Similar culture, similar music, similar cuisine, similar patois. If you're looking for a real Caribbean curry -- or roti -- that's the best place I've found outside of my own kitchen.
There's also a new restaurant which I've not yet tried, located in Garland called, Caribbean Eats on Centerville Rd. I've heard good things about their doubles, but it's so tough for me to go out for something I believe I do very well with at home.
But hey, that's just how I lime. I put on my Shurwayne Winchester CD, break out the tawa and Kardhai and I'm off to cooking my bakes and roti as if I were back for another visit to T&T... or SVG... or JA... there's nothing like Caribbean cuisine!
I have been and the food was not as good as Carribean Pan. Carribean Grill turns into a dance hall on several nights throughout the week playing reggae. That is why it looked more like a pool hall. On another note some say the food at Taste of The Islands in Plano (Spring Creek @ Alma) is very good also. I had the buffet at Carribean Grill when I went and did not like it. I went back a second time and ordered off the menu and it wasn't much better. My picks would be Elaine's Kitchen close to Fair Park, Taste of the Islands in Plano , or Carribean Cafe in Farmers Branch until Carribean Pan opens back up. Carribean Cafe is on Webb Chapel @ Beltline in Farmers Branch. It is more Cuban than Jaimacan, food there was really good also