>> [CLOSED] Bon Berger | Eat the World New York City

15 March 2010

[CLOSED] Bon Berger

HAITI

[UPDATE: CLOSED]

Doing research for an Examiner.com article I am writing about Haitian restaurants and the community here in Brooklyn after the hurricane that devastated the island in January, I walked into the Bedford Haitian Community Center on Rogers Avenue in Crown Heights and asked for a listing of restaurants and/or businesses that I might find nearby to supplement Les Cayes Restaurant, my favorite Haitian place at the moment. The friendly staff had no lists, but were eager to run through what was in their head, referring to street corners and not knowing names, but full of useful information nonetheless.

The most interesting (and maybe the only one I could remember after such a barrage of info) was about half a kilometer south in Flatbush, called Bon Berger. On a normal afternoon it is hard to tell if the place is open or not, as they don't roll the gates up completely, and keep the vertical blinds shut. But we walked in and were greeted with a friendly "bonsoir" from the woman working the counter.

There were no other customers when we arrived, and the television was off, but she promptly tuned it to CNN for our enjoyment. Two empty glasses, presumably for water are brought to the table but not filled. Eventually we figured out that we could help ourselves to some chilled water in the old refrigerator, a gesture of friendship rather than neglect.


Consistent with experiences at other Haitian restaurants, the legumes ($7, above, translates to "vegetables") came full of meat, this time pork. They warned us before serving it, possibly a sign of a previously surprised diner. The darkly green steamed pile is tasty and salty, best portioned with a small bit of rice with each bite. Choose the beans when asked, and use these liberally in your mix as well.

Our first selection was not available on this day, but it lead us to the tassot ($9, below), a meal of grilled goat, served with a blanket of raw onions and completely drenched in citrus juice. The charred meat soaked all this in and exploded with taste at each bite. Usually quite mild, the fried plantains that accompanied the dish were coated with spice so that they could keep up with the tastes of the goat.


As we leisurely ate our meal, a couple men came in, sat down for a quick lunch, and left satisfied. Each of them made some sort of conversation with us, probably just surprised and curious to see us eating here. Something new for the day. They were both Haitian, and asked us if it was our first time having the food and how we liked it. It would be very easy to make friends in such a place, the people genuinely welcoming you as if we were traveling in their home country.

I guess I am usually too hungry when I sit down to have a good look around a place and notice its idiosyncrasies, but after completely stuffing ourselves, the pink walls, gold sheer curtains, and worn plastic over all the tables came into better focus. I have not been to Haiti, but the decorating scheme was consistent with many other developing nations I have visited and as always, makes the food somehow more real and fulfilling. The tacky patterned tablecloths don't necessarily succeed in advancing interior design trends, but do the job they are meant to do perfectly.

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