A Fork on the Road: Le Lambi Restaurant

 

Feast on Haitian home-cooking in Kendall

le lambia

Linda Bladholm

An old TWA travel brochure depicting the air route linking Cuba, Puerto Rico and Haiti -the Caribbean "golden triangle" of the 1930s, '40s and '50s - is among the memorabilia you'll see at Le Lambi Restaurant. Named for a famous nightclub outside Port-au-Prince, it has become a gathering spot for the Haitian community in Kendall.

Owner Carine Baez migrated from Port-au-Prince to Jersey City with her family in 1969 as a teenager. Her job with a sea-freight company brought her to Miami from Tampa eight years ago, and she and her husband settled in Kendall, where they had friends. Unable to find Haitian food without a takeout trip to Little Haiti, she took the plunge in May and became a restaurateur, hiring two Haitian cooks.

Lambi is a Creole term of Taino Indian origin meaning conch, a symbol of Haiti. The marine gastropod that tastes like clam crossed with abalone is served here in dishes that reflect the mish-mash of French, African and Spanish influences on Haitian cuisine. Scored conch is grilled, chopped and served in a hot, smoky salad with spicy vinaigrette. Conch is also stewed in a tangy tomato base with hot peppers, thyme and garlic.

Haitian meals are traditionally served in two courses: meat and a starch and then congri (rice and beans). Here the choices include griots (simmered and fried pork cubes), deep-fried goat chunks or stewed chicken with two sides (fried plantains, rice or salad). Or get snapper stewed in a spicy citrus sauce.

Folks flock to Fritay Fridays, when platters of fritters make a meal following the custom of buying street snacks for supper when kitchen help was off on Fridays. On Saturday there's blue crab soup thick with vegetables and tubers. Any day, rum cake or sweet potato pie makes a grand finale.

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