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Warung Kario dinner and Liberty Ave. Guyanese query

CitySpoonful Nov 4, 2011 08:03 AM

We grabbed dinner at Warung Kario in Ozone Park, Queens, last night. Unfortunately, we arrived just before closing (8pm), and the pickins' on the steam table were pretty sparse.

We must've asked for about half a dozen dishes recommended by a friend who spent a lot of time in Suriname -- dawat (coconut milk drink), gembeer (spicy ginger drink), pom (mashed grated taro root), soetoe soup (chicken soup w/boiled egg), goedangan (string beans with a spicy coconut sauce), the usual veggies (bitter gourd, pumpkin, eggplant) -- but only a few of the things we had hoped to try were actually available (baka bana, bamie and bojo).

What we did try from the steam table was unfortunately less-than-fresh. Indeed, only one of us was brave enough to try the stewed chicken, which looked like it had seen far better days.

Still, our dishes featured a really interesting meld of sweet/mildly spicy/savory flavors. The fried noodles (bamie) and fried rice (nasi) may have looked unremarkable -- like standard Chinese take-out, in fact -- but the aforementioned flavor combo was distinctly different from those of Chinese, Thai, Indian, Filipino, Nepali, etc. cooking. We were totally at a loss to name the seasonings (Can anyone help with that?).

One of us loved the stewed "brown beans" (the proprietress used the Dutch "bruine boone" for them -- kidney beans, I'm pretty sure) spooned on top of our spicy sweet noodles (bamie). The beans added a salty/meaty kick to the sweet/mildly spicy noodles. Why ever did this idea never occur to us?!

The sauteed cabbage, pickled cucumber slices and pickled red onions on the side also added a complementary tangy/mostly sweet edge to the noodle and rice dishes.

Our meat eater was also a big fan of the shredded/fried liver and onions condiment (the stewed chicken was just "OK"). And our spice lover was impressed by the extreme heat of the red chili sambol (use it sparingly unless you know what you're doing!).

We had high hopes for the baka bana (a snack of fried sweetish plantains). Our plate of baka bana came fresh from the fryer, but the flavors were underwhelming -- slightly sweet/slightly savory plantain. Plus it was served with an oddly sweet, almost fruity peanut sauce that was the color of molasses. The freshly friend banana chips -- paper thin, low on oil, and lightly salted -- were far better.

The desserts were low on sweetness (a good thing in my book!) but also low on flavor. The lapis (vaguely coconut-y,bright pink-&-white custard squares) was especially bland, with the less-than-appealing texture of extra-firm custard. But the bojo (steamed cassava with coconut) had a mild sweet/burnt brown-sugary flavor and a nice chewiness -- like Indian halwa solidified into grab-and-go squares. And were those raisins tossed into the mix? Nice touch.

Walking from the subway, we noticed a plentiful array of Guyanese spots along Liberty Ave. Any recs for where to go? Kaieteur, Singh's, and Little Guyana Bake Shop have been mentioned on these boards. Any info on a nice-looking roti shop called Anil's? Other recs? (JFores, I know you know where to go for the good stuff on Liberty Ave.!)

(Photos of all the dishes are on our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?se...


Singh's Roti Shop
131-18 Liberty Ave, Queens, NY 11419

Anil's Roti Shop
125-01 Liberty Ave, Queens, NY 11419

Little Guyana Bake Shop
124-13 Liberty Ave, Queens, NY 11419

Warung Kario
128-12 Liberty Ave, Queens, NY 11419

87-12 Lefferts Blvd, Queens, NY 11418

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  1. d
    deabot RE: CitySpoonful Nov 4, 2011 10:01 AM

    A friend of mine (who is Guyanese) took me on a little tour of Liberty Ave last fall. We had rotis at Singh's, picked up some pastries at Little Guyana Bake Shop and concluded with lunch at Kaieteur's. Everything was very tasty. Kaieteur took some getting used to, a lot of reminded me of americanized chinese food with a few east indian twists!

    Little Guyana Bake Shop
    124-13 Liberty Ave, Queens, NY 11419

    87-12 Lefferts Blvd, Queens, NY 11418

    8 Replies
    1. re: deabot
      CitySpoonful RE: deabot Nov 8, 2011 07:04 AM

      Thanks, Deabot. So Singh's is still the place to go? Any recs re: what to try? I'd be esp. grateful for a rec for something vegetarian. :)

      1. re: CitySpoonful
        deabot RE: CitySpoonful Nov 8, 2011 09:13 AM

        Yes, Singh's is good. But let me ask my Guyanese friend about some other recs for vegetarians. If you're interested, I might be able to arrange a tour for us.

        1. re: deabot
          CitySpoonful RE: deabot Nov 9, 2011 11:25 AM

          Deabot, Most definitely interested!!! Please email me at info@cityspoonful.com.

          1. re: deabot
            CitySpoonful RE: deabot Feb 15, 2012 04:08 AM

            So deabot did indeed arrange a tour of Richmond Hill's Guyanese and Trini-bagian spots with her Guyanese friend (thanks again, deabot)! And it was AWESOME (and, yes, we did get to try Anil's Roti Shop!).

            The write-up is finally live on City Spoonful, so I'm sharing it here as well. (Note that we're vegetarian, so we didn't try any meaty fare in Richmond Hill; thus, this piece is part of City Spoonful's "Intrepid Vegetarian" series -- "daring to go veg in meaty places"...) Without further ado....read on!

            West Indian food is beloved among New Yorkers for its meaty stews, spicy beef-stuffed patties and herb-rubbed meats. But on a recent excursion to Richmond Hill, Queens, we found much for vegetarians to love in the neighborhood’s Guyanese and Trini-bagian restaurants and bakeries.

            We started at Sonny’s Roti Shop, which specializes in doubles, a favorite street food in Trinidad and Tobago that combines spiced, stewed chickpeas with two pieces of flat bread (thus the name “doubles”).

            Sonny’s chickpeas were stewed with onions, cumin and other Indian spices—just like my Indian mother-in-law’s chana (stewed chickpeas). The flavorful beans were topped with a dab of sweet tamarind sauce and rolled up in the slightly sweet, fluffy flat bread.

            We washed our doubles down with Sonny’s homemade sorrel, an ominous-looking jet black beverage with a slightly bitter taste and sweet, cinnamony undertones—a combination that reminded one of us of cough syrup.

            Then it was off to Little Guyana Bake Shop for a sweet interlude. We couldn’t resist trying the colorfully named black eye, a flaky, buttery pastry stuffed with sweet but earthy mashed black-eyed peas. Clearly a legacy of Guyana’s large Chinese community, the black eye’s flavors recalled the baked red bean–stuffed buns found in Chinatown bakeries (egg-washed crust and all!).

            The salara (red coconut roll) and pine tart (pineapple tart) were less impressive. The salara’s sweet, dense bread contained seams of red-dyed coconut flakes that tasted (oddly) of almond extract.

            The pine tart’s crust was thick and tasteless, and its pineapple filling was overly sweet and gooey, lacking the subtle flavors of cinnamon and brown sugar that signify a good pine tart.

            We also tried a piece of cassava pone (a cake made from the potato-like root vegetable also called yucca). It was extremely dense, moist and mildly sweet, with a buttery, coconut-y flavor and a distinctly earthy, potato-like aftertaste. Some of us loved it; others were not fans.

            Next stop: Anil’s Roti Shop, where we tried Guyanese phulourie (pronounced: pil-ow-ree), deep-fried fritters made from flour and ground yellow lentils—a close cousin to the North Indian vada.

            On their own, the phulourie were chewy, oily and generally unremarkable. But they were much improved by a deep dunk in Anil’s spicy tamarind sauce, a watery mixture of tangy tamarind, pepper and some kind of mild herb—perhaps oregano or thyme.

            We also tried Anil’s dahl roti, a thin, griddled flat bread stuffed with mashed yellow lentils. The roti was dry and crumbly, and its lentil filling was only mildly spiced.

            But another flavorful side dish—mango curry—saved the day. The curry, which is eaten at room temperature with the dahl roti, consisted of long, thick slices of sweet mango cooked with spices and tangy tamarind. Like Indian mango chutney, the curry’s initial sweetness was swiftly followed by a satisfyingly spicy kick.

            We washed down our carb-heavy snacks at Anil’s with bottles of Ting, a Jamaican grapefruit soda, and chewy tamarind balls, a digestive made from tangy tamarind pulp, sugar and spicy pepper.

            After a long, chilly walk east on Liberty Ave., we rolled into Sybil’s Restaurant & Bakery, which was packed with customers angling for access to the small ordering counter.

            Our stomachs were happily full, so it was easy to resist the food on the steam table, which looked a bit worse for the wear. But we couldn’t pass up the chance to try Sybil’s black cake, a favorite dessert in Guyana that is eaten only at Christmas or weddings.

            The dense, coal-black cake was soft and moist with strong flavors of vanilla, rum, mildly sweet fruits and even milder hints of cinnamon and nutmeg.

            Sybil’s black cake—like most of the vegetarian West Indian food we tried in Richmond Hill—was utterly delicious and well worth the frigid trek along Liberty Ave.

            (Photos are at: http://www.cityspoonful.com/intrepid-...


            Sonny's Roti Shop
            118-06 Liberty Ave, Queens, NY 11419

            132-17 Liberty Ave, Queens, NY 11419

            Anil's Roti Shop
            125-01 Liberty Ave, Queens, NY 11419

            Little Guyana Bake Shop
            116-04 Liberty Ave, Queens, NY 11419

          2. re: CitySpoonful
            missmasala RE: CitySpoonful Nov 9, 2011 06:31 AM

            I'm partial to the doubles at singh's, but i think it's because i like their peppa sauce the best. Haven't tried sandy's or kaieteur's, but have tried annie's and sybil's and prefer singh's.

            1. re: missmasala
              CitySpoonful RE: missmasala Nov 9, 2011 11:27 AM

              Curious -- what makes for good doubles? All about the flavor combo?

              1. re: CitySpoonful
                Cheese Boy RE: CitySpoonful Nov 9, 2011 08:48 PM

                For good doubles, the bara has to be fresh and it should be a nice size too (bigger than your palm). The chana shouldn't be heavily curried and it shouldn't be too watery either. I prefer the chana to be on the dry side so I don't have a drippy mess to contend with. Sauce and chutney additions are left to your discretion.
                I like tamarind and some hot sauce. Sometimes I like them plain. Depends.

                1. re: Cheese Boy
                  missmasala RE: Cheese Boy Nov 18, 2011 02:50 PM

                  totally agree, esp. about the chana not being too heavily curried. I like a little tamarind and a liberal dose of peppa sauce.

        2. t
          tabs RE: CitySpoonful Nov 8, 2011 06:34 PM

          I think Sybils and Sandy's Roti Shop (tasty $1 Doubles...fried chickpea bread with curried chick peas) are the best of the lot. Both have a great scene expecially on the weekends. I have not tried Anils.

          132-17 Liberty Ave, Queens, NY 11419

          121-10 Liberty Ave, Queens, NY 11419

          3 Replies
          1. re: tabs
            CitySpoonful RE: tabs Nov 9, 2011 11:26 AM

            So Sybil's, Sandy's and Singh's are the way to go for roti.

            No one knows anything about Anil's?

            1. re: CitySpoonful
              UnitedNationsOfFood RE: CitySpoonful Nov 13, 2011 08:36 PM

              I'm not an expert on Guyanese food, but I ate at Anil's a few months ago and absolutely loved it. Had some excellent goat curry and an outstanding dish called geera chicken, stewed in an amazing sauce that was heavy on cracked black pepper and something that tasted like garam masala. There wasn't tons of meat in the dish, but I was thrilled to sit there and eat sauce-soaked roti all afternoon.

              Anil's was pretty ridiculously cheap, too: $6 per plate, including a main dish, a side dish (I had some pretty tasty greens, my companion munched on curry potatoes), and a big chunk of chana-filled roti. The staff wasn't terribly friendly, but when the food is that good and cheap, I don't really care.

              And I'm with you on Warung Kario: the flavors can be underwhelming at times. I had a pretty good yellow chicken curry there, but it was thoroughly un-special without the hot sauce. The same can be said of the noodles, greens, fried rice, and fried fish: perfectly decent, but not as exciting as I'd hoped.

              Anil's Roti Shop
              125-01 Liberty Ave, Queens, NY 11419

              Warung Kario
              128-12 Liberty Ave, Queens, NY 11419

              1. re: UnitedNationsOfFood
                CitySpoonful RE: UnitedNationsOfFood Nov 18, 2011 02:43 PM

                On to Anil's! I'm hoping to head back to the 'hood with deabot sometime soon, so I will post again, with more info re: the 'hood's Guyanese options.

                PS: I'm guessing "geera chicken" had some cumin going on....since zeera or jeera is the word in Punjabi/Hindi (respectively) for cumin. :)

          2. Cheese Boy RE: CitySpoonful Nov 8, 2011 11:02 PM

            I gotta try that bojo for sure.

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