Situated in Vancouver’s Chinatown, Calabash is like a little corner of the Caribbean in the West Coast. As soon as I entered the sound of steel drums and tropical smells invaded my senses. The staff is very friendly and will answer any questions you may have about the venue or the food. Even though I was in the middle of the city, I could easily imagine that I was on a Caribbean beach somewhere enjoying coconut dumplings and rum drinks.
What’s so special about the food is that it is the only place, to my knowledge, that offers a full Caribbean style brunch. Very different from other brunches that I’ve tried. Chef Cullin combines the flavours so well that it was hard to choose a favourite! On this occasion we started off with some fried coconut dumplings with their own house-made mango or guava butter. These little “doughnuts” are toasty on the outside with a soft centre. Perfect pairing for your coffee and a perfect start to your brunch experience.
We begin with the Escovitch Fish, which is a pan-seared snapper with tangy Escovitch sauce served with rice and black-eyed peas and garnished with fried plantain and fresh cucumber. The fish had a subtle taste Subtle and a very light spice, not overpowering at all. The rice had a subtle spice too and the sweetness to plantain perfect balance to the spice. Amazingly enough, the spice was from black pepper, it was just perfect.
They suggest a passion fruit & guava mimosa as a drink pairing for the fish. This was a Pares Balta organic sparkling wine with passion fruit and guava juice. A different take on the traditional OJ mimosa, but oh so much better! If you, like me, love tropical flavours, then this is a perfect mimosa for you.
The next dish was a little strange to me when I read about it… Oxtail Stew for brunch? But I’m always up for new things so I went at it with an open mind (and taste buds). The Oxtail Stew Brunch Bowl has oxtail stew (of course), two poached eggs, fried plantains, coconut rundown hollandaise and served over rice and black-eyed peas. The rundown is poured over the eggs the moment the dish is served. I can honestly say that oxtail stew works as a brunch dish! The rundown hollandaise is made with no egg at all, it is a coconut reduction cooked at low heat until it reaches a creamy consistency, not quite custard but close enough. Such a light coconut flavour that goes so well with the eggs and the stew. If you’re looking for a hearty dish, this is it!
The pairing for the Oxtail Stew is the Dark & Stormy, a drink made with ginger-infused Goslin’s rum, house-made ginger beer, Angostura bitters and ginger syrup, garnished with dried coconut slices. This sounds like a ginger overload but the taste was not over powering at all. Of course, if you don’t like ginger then this drink would not even catch your radar but I do enjoy the taste of ginger so I quite enjoyed it. I found that it’s one of those dangerous drinks where you can’t taste the alcohol so I would tread with caution on this one before you gulp it down. It was that good!
Finally, and the piece de resistance in my opinion, came the Salara French Toast. So much more than your regular french toast. This amazing smorgasbord of flavours is made with fresh baked traditional Guayanese coconut bread and served with an oh-so-fluffy banana cream and spiced ma
ngo maple syrup. Garnished with fresh-cut fruit. Just one bite and I was a goner! The only way to describe it is wow! A party of flavours in my mouth. I think that my taste buds did literally dance and sing! :) I’ll leave you with that, you’ll just have to try it to see what I mean.
The Coconut Jumby was the drink of choice for the French toast. It is made with El Dorado 3 year-old rum shaken with coconut water, agave syrup, muddled lemon-grass. At this point I couldn’t have any more alcohol, I am a very light one-drink-a-week-if-any drinker so I opted for the virgin option that just omitted the rum. Without the rum this was something that I could totally see myself drinking after or during a long workout instead of a sports drink. It was very refreshing and could almost feel the electrolytes rehydrating me. It was my favourite drink of all the ones that I’ve tasted because it was light and refreshing
Aside from amazing food, Calabash has a unique atmosphere. They have the largest rum list in Vancouver with approximately 85 rums from all over the world, if you want it I believe they’ll have it! They also have a very nice downstairs space that is the perfect option for those of us who are so over the night club scene but still like to go out and enjoy the night life with dancing and live music. Their music line up includes live bands and DJ’s that play roots, reggae, jazz, blues, Motown and funk. I also found out that they have the occasional Latin night, which is quite alright with me.