Saturday, October 29, 2011

Review of Chaud Cafe

Chaud Cafe at One Woodbrook Place in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

To my mind, Khalid Mohammed is the best chef in Trinidad.  With his interesting fusion of Caribbean and European foods, he packed in the customers when he was head chef at Batimamselle restaurant, disproving the notion that no restaurant in St Anns can succeed.  With his ultra luxurious, Chaud, at the top of Dundonald Street, he broke a vicious blight cycle on a building in which every business that has made its home had failed.  Chaud is incredibly successful, and despite its prohibitive prices, it always seems to be full or nearly there.

Mohammed has been growing his sophisticated food empire, and now in addition to Chaud, there's Chaud Creole and Chaud Cafe - the latter of which I went to for the first time tonight.  I went with my high school friend, Radha.  We've not seen each other in over a year, and I decided the event was special enough to warrant a trip to the cafe, which, could have been very expensive.

My partner doesn't like going to restaurants with me anymore.  I'm super critical, and I know this.  I look at the service, at the food at the prices.  But it's the price you pay for being a good cook.  When you can make delicious food yourself, it can often be frustrating and disappointing to go out to a restaurant and pay good money for a meal you could have made better.  But I have always relished the rare opportunities for going to Khalid's restaurants, as the food is always delicious and often adventurous.  The service is good but borders a bit on the maniacal as uber efficient waiters whisk your plates away too soon and top up the water in your glass before you've had a chance to ask for anything.  That said, it's a refreshing change from what often prevails in restaurants here where one is ignored.  Anyhoo!  I'm rambling.

Chaud Cafe is nicely designed, and has a large external dining area which I appreciated.  The service is not as efficient as it is at Chaud, but actually, given the afore-mentioned gestapo-type service at Chaud, it's nice to be in a place that in its decor, food and service is a bit more laid back.

Onto the food.  I found the menu overly pretentious.  Why would you, in Trinidad, write "garbanzo beans" on the menu, when EVERYONE says channa?  Even if you're concerned that your ex-pat clientele might not know what channa is, this can easily be clarified by some brackets.  And then, why would you call a banana fritter a beignet?  Again, not necessary.  I don't think calling a fritter a beignet makes it any more interesting, especially when what you end up with is a fritter.

I ordered toast with mushrooms and spinach, Radha ordered chicken liver pate and the two of us shared an order of fried squid.  All of these, by the way, came under their 'small plates' section, and cost between $40 - $80 each.  We ordered exactly the right amount of food.  The portions weren't massive but were ample, and given the prices at Chaud, I was happily surprised by the cost of things.

I'm not a fan of soggy bread.  I struggle with trifles and can only just about manage tiramisu.  So I was a bit disheartened by the utterly soggy slice of bread that arrived in front of me.  That said, the mushrooms and spinach were completely delicious, and I was able to forget about the bread.  Radha's pate was velvety and smooth, with a sweet red onion relish that I enjoyed.  I would have liked it if there had been some slices of fresh tomato on the plate, as I love that combination.  The squid was good but unremarkable.

In terms of dessert, my beignets were ever so slightly burnt and quite lack-lustre.  Radha had a chocolate and coffee mousse which was creamy, light, airy and thoroughly yummy!

All in all, I enjoyed the Chaud Cafe experience, and I'd suggest it to anyone.  I'd also happily go back there again.

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