The promiscuous palate: where to conch out

Chunky conch fritters look like mandarin-colored jewels at Goldie's Conch House. Photo: Dinkinish O'connor.

It’s about 4 p.m. on a Saturday and the atmosphere at Goldie’s is pure Carib shanty-elegance. But what’s most captivating is watching chef Lenny Evans, conch master, melodically chop and dice iridescent slabs. When you park in the back, you can watch the conch symphony that is part of the preparation of the venue’s signature conch salad ($13). This chunky salad is made from the 200 pounds of fresh, raw conch the manager, Isy Mack, gets from the Bahamas every day. Then it’s seasoned with salt, vinegar, onion, green and red pepper, fresh sour orange juice and other “secret spices,” Mack says, as she slurped a gigantic piece of raw pearlized flesh she called “scorched” conch ($13). Owner Kirkwood “Goldie” Evans’ conch fritters are rich, tender, mandarin-colored, thyme bombs, bursting with conch pellets (12 for $6).

You know something is good when you start identifying the work in your wine-tasting notes — The Iron Horse Sparkling Green Valley NV smells like Michy’s ceviche. The dish is full of bright, citrus aromas and flavors that are enlivened by spontaneous bursts of smoke and sweetness. On one of my ceviche runs, I picked up an order that included a blend of black grouper, scallops, shrimp and conch that was mixed with citrus juices and Aji Amarillo — a Peruvian chile — and served with sweet potato cubes and roasted corn kernels ($8 small, $16 large). The sea fare changes daily, but the conch ceviche is my favorite.

I’ve never had fried butterfly wings, but if I did, I’m sure they would be as airy as the fried conch at Arline’s Restaurant. For $8.49, you get a quarter pound of these cashew-colored, lightly-battered bites with fries. For an extra kick, go to the table of sauces where you’ll find a weathered bottle of Bajan Country Boy Pepper sauce that’s made with hot pepper, mustard and turmeric powder among other spices; then add a touch of ketchup — it’s so good. We’ll call this the conch-u-bine cocktail sauce.

At Chef Creole Seafood, the conch fritters are crisp, oily sweet medallions (four for $3). Top with pikliz (a slaw of shredded cabbage, carrots and onions dressed with scotch bonnet-spiked vinegar) and it’s Bon bagay (a common Creole expression that loosely means “good stuff.”) But what I really love is chef and owner Kenneth Sejour’s conch salad — pieces of small, tender, conch chunks sautéed with onion, red and green pepper and topped with a sweet, pikliz-like sauce ($4 for small, $6 for large). Sejour’s marinade is made with vinegar, pureéd carrots, parsley, thyme, onion, sour orange, scotch bonnet pepper and other ingredients. Pair it up with a side order of rice and red beans for $2, and you and a friend can take in the occasional Friday evening live band at the Little Haiti location.

Pulbished: 9/08

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