January 22, 2013 was the date of an amazing food blogger menu tasting afternoon at Chaud Café and Wine Bar. Located at One Woodbrook Place, this offshoot of Khalil Mohammed’s respected Chaud brand offers fine wines and casual upscale dining in a relaxed environment, complete with outdoor verandah. In attendance were Corey of Learning Patience, TriniChow, Melissa of Belly in Hand, myself and QD Ross of Bring It To The Table (QD was also guest cook on Episode 5 of “Sweet Han': Caribbean Cooking with Sarina”).
Organized by Chaud Café’s General Manager Alison Mair-Pascal we were wined and dined through a representative sampling of their menu. Although I was only able to have the dishes that were either fish or vegetarian-based I’m happy to say that they had enough dishes that fit those parameters though to keep me more than satisfied. Vegan options however were almost non-existent. This is something that they are working on and Alison did let me know that if a diner wants or needs modifications to an existing item, they are happy to accommodate. Something to keep in mind!
Below is my writeup of the dishes which I had, as well as links to the other blogger writeups which include images and descriptions to the dishes which I did not personally try.
It had been ages, over a decade I’m sure, since I’d had (or been offered) tamarind juice, so when our server listed it as one of the options I grabbed it immediately. I fully expected it to be some form of concentrate-based synthetic blend and was caught off-guard (in a good way) when I realized that it was the real deal. Thick, pulpy, tangy and not overly sweet. So good! Real tamarind juice was the perfect start to the tasting, and immediately put me at ease.
Salade Niçoise – Pepper Crusted Tuna, Potatoes, Hard Cooked Eggs, Anchovies, Olives, Green Beans, Bell Peppers, Tomatoes & Mixed Greens – White Wine Vinaigrette
I love Salade Niçoise, my favourite recipe for it comes from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours
, so I was excited to see what spin Chaud Café would bring to this French standard. No crazy risks were taken though, instead this was a very reverential and straightforward Niçoise salad. The tuna was particularly enjoyable with its seared pepper crust and rare middle. So many establishments in Trinidad cook the last atom of moisture out of tuna so I was glad to see it handled in this particularly delicate manner.
Smoked Salmon ‘Mimosa’ – Sieved Eggs, Red Onions, Cucumbers, Capers, Scallion Mascarpone, Baby Spinach, Marbled Pumpernickel
I simply adore smoked salmon, however I was concerned about how the cucumbers and capers (two components I am not fond of) would affect my enjoyment of this dish. Although I did remove the cucumbers from my portion (I really can’t stomach them), I found that, much to my surprise, I actually enjoyed the capers in this context! Who knew! The scallion mascarpone was the perfect foil for the pungency of the capers, softening their edge and keeping the delicacy of the salmon to the forefront. This was quite a fun concoction and one that has the word ‘brunch’ written all over it
Warm Mushroom Ragoût on Toast – Spinach, Manchego Cheese, Aged Balsamic
This dish was definitely a group favourite. Although I enjoyed it (what’s not to love about spinach, cheese and mushrooms?) it just didn’t excite me in the way I had expected it to, from the description and prior reviews. Maybe if I had had a chance to experience it without any buildup my thoughts would have been different. It has a strong comfort food vibe, so if you’re looking for something soothing and reassuring gravitate to it. However, if you’re looking for a centerpiece to your order or want to recommend something to a new visitor to get them hooked on Chaud’s offerings I’d probably go with one of the other items in this tasting
Grouper Po’ Boy – Creole Remoulade, Cole Slaw, French Bread
This dish was the only truly disappointing item on what was from start to finish a really impressive showing from the Chaud Café kitchen. The grouper was moist however everything else was just slightly ‘off’ about the execution. The batter seemed heavy on what tasted like paprika, and it overpowered the flavour of the grouper instead of complementing it. Something more herbal with citrus zest would have worked better in my thoughts. The remoulade seemed scanty, and the scale of the sandwich meant it was too unwieldy to be eaten by hand. This is not a problem in a setting where one is comfortable with ‘getting down’ however Chaud Café’s ambience doesn’t lend itself to ladies getting crumbs and sauce all over their faces and apparel. We were left with trying to cut the sandwiches down to size with knives and forks, which detracted from the experience. Not one that I would try again.
Salmon Crudo – Shaved Fennel, Orange Supreme, Olives, Crispy Capers, Balsamic Syrup
This dish was simply amazing. I would have gladly finished it all by myself in on fell swoop if I didn’t have other eyes and mouths to share it with Light, refreshing, with the perfect balance of acid and sweet. It was a joy to look at, and even better to partake in. This dish also contained a wonderful revelation, Crispy Capers. Who knew that once fried caper develop the meaty nuttiness of walnuts? Two dishes with capers that I enjoyed within one hour? Chaud Café what were you doing to me?!
French Fries with Arugula Mayo
Another homerun! You may think that fries are not something to rave about or to praise a restaurant for, but think about it. How many times have you had disappointing or mediocre French Fries? I’m guessing it’s pretty often (and if it’s not I want to know where you live :)). These fries were airy on the inside, satisfyingly crunchy on the outside. Perfectly seasoned. And Oh my Word! That Arugula Mayo is worthy of bottling and selling in its own right! This is definitely one to recommend if you are bringing a friend to Chaud Café for the first time, or if it’s your first time as well
Grilled Vegetable Cous Cous Salad
If you are wondering if I wasn’t full by this point I’m happy to let you know that oh yes. I was. But… I gallantly proceeded for the benefit of you, my dear reader This grilled vegetable cous cous salad was light and flavourful. It was also the only vegan dish (at least I believe so) of the afternoon. It may not suffice as a centerpiece but as a side it definitely will not disappoint!
Grilled Salmon Spiedini
These were sooo good. Cubes of beautifully seasoned lightly grilled salmon, served on a bed of herbed couscous with a lively tomato sauce. Another one I could have curled up in a corner with and hoarded for myself. Everything about the dish was moist, flaky, and bursting with flavour. If you are starting to notice that Chaud Café has a way with salmon dishes you are both perceptive and right!
Roasted Bone Marrow, Parsley-Red Onion Salad, Toast
I didn’t have any of this dish but it was so beautiful I had to share it with you. I’ve never had roasted marrow and everything about it, from the presentation to the little spoons, intrigued me. Melissa of Belly In Hand in particular kept digging in, however the chorus of mmms and aahs let me know she wasn’t the only one who was impressed. Definitely on my ‘must try next’ list
Flourless Chocolate Cake, Sour Cream Sherbert
This one was a show stopper. A dark rich chocolate torte. I loved that it was flourless (gluten-intolerants need not feel neglected at the end of an evening), and the sour cream sherbet was my second revelation of the day. I love sour cream, in fact I often have to restrain myself from eating it off instead of using it in a recipe. Still, I had never thought of it in sherbet form, let alone served in a dessert course. This combination changed all of that in an instant. The tart iciness of the sherbet harmonized with the dense sweetness of the cake. An instant classic!
Warm Apple Crumble, Brown Butter-Pecan Ice Cream
You know when a dessert like this has me, an avowed hater of all things pecan, vying for the next spoonful, you’ve done something beyond right. This dish was hands-down the best apple crumble I’ve ever had. Not too sweet, perfect contrast of textures, and the warmth of flavour in the butter-pecan ice cream was so so addictive. Don’t even think about ordering this one ‘to share’ hehehe!
From start to finish my experience at Chaud Café & Wine Bar was an amazing one and I -will- be back. The staff were well-trained and pleasant, the ambiance intimate and cozy. Chef Ca-El Seebaran also prepared an array of dishes that were overwhelmingly well-executed and as pleasing to the eye as they were to the palate. I hope that this writeup encourages you to give them a visit and try one or more of the dishes I presented here Tell them I said hi *lol*
At the age of 29, Trinidadian Chef Ca-el Seebaran already has over ten years of culinary experience under his belt. Ca-el’s impressive resume includes work in some of the Caribbean’s finest restaurant and hotel kitchens. The talented chef worked at the Trinidad Hilton under former executive chef Debra Metivier, as well as Batimamselle restaurant. He then moved on to fine-tune his skills at Chaud, located around the Savannah, under the renowned Khalid Mohammed. Ca-el previously worked at the St. Kitts Resort and The Royal Beach Casino and became chef de cuisine (CDC) at the Hyatt Trinidad’s Waterfront Restaurant in 2010 before he took over as CDC of Chaud Café. Here, in the heart of Port of Spain, Ca-el works with Chaud Café owners Khalid and Alison Mair-Pascal to help craft the sumptuous cuisine and eclectic world fusion. His favourite part of the job? Being part of the team that creates the easy-going, friendly atmosphere that is Chaud Café.
About Chaud Café & Wine Bar
Step out of the hustle of Port of Spain and, with a sigh of relief, step into the warm glow of Chaud Café & Wine Bar. Perched overlooking the busy junctions of Woodbrook and St. James, Chaud Café & Wine Bar is an oasis in the city.
Calm conversation, exotic world music, cooling breezes on the deck. Delicately prepared gourmet food. Good laughs. Small plates.
Based on the tradition of Spanish tapas and Lebanese mezze, we offer small to medium sized plates. This is gourmet eating at its friendliest.
Come in for the ease of an eat-in or take-away sandwich or salad at lunch, or settle into the tranquillity of an evening out with family and friends when we have a small plates menu and a wine bar. Bring friends, bring family, kick back with a bottle of wine, order several small plates and pass them amongst the table. Enjoy the small pleasures of life.
This is gourmet eating at its friendliest. This is not fine dining. This is not a bar.
This is Chaud Café
Chaud Café & Wine Bar
One Woodbrook Place