A Must-Try Caribbean Cuisine Restaurant for Vegans

French-Influenced Caribbean | $$ | 1032 Union St, Brooklyn | (347) 405-9727

Near the eastern border of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, lies iTal Kitchen, a French-influenced Caribbean vegan restaurant. You’ll know you arrived when your feet land on the fake grass that outlines the perimeter, ornamented by red, blue, and yellow flower boxes. This is only the beginning of the Caribbean hospitality you are about to experience.

When you walk in, Chef Michael Gordon will welcome you. As a man from Queens, New York, his heart is rooted in Jamaica, as you will taste from his Caribbean cuisines. With his kind smile and relaxed sensibility, he will sit next to you at one of the neighboring dark wooden tables. Once he encourages you to try the jerk chicken, he’ll bring you some tap water in a glass vase that shimmers pink. If you ask for a Coke, he’ll tell you to bring your own, just as it says at the bottom of the menu “B.Y.O.B.” For now, water will do.

While you wait, look around. The space is contained in warm yellows, oranges, and green walls.The fifteen mismatched seats are part of the irresistible charm that makes your eye keep searching for the next treasure. It’s hard to miss the open kitchen that weds the customer to the chef and the chef to their food. The hearty aromas linger around your nose, making you hungrier as you wait. Everything from the paintings on the wall to the last dash of turmeric is precisely thought out for your enjoyment.

As a newly-declared vegetarian, there is nothing more satisfying than looking at a menu and reading the words “Veggie Jerk Chicken” or “ Veggie Burger.” I marvel at the fact someone set out to disprove the notion, “you can’t have your cake and eat it, too.” At iTal, you certainly can. Chef Gordon assured me that their jerk chicken dish was their most famous, and he did not disappoint. Made with seitan, an alternative “meat” product for vegetarians, Chef Gordon warms up his pan to bathe the “chicken” in his unique tangy and spicy jerk sauce. When my jerk chicken arrived over a bed of rice, I couldn’t help but be mesmerized by the hints of heat and sweet that hit my tongue.

The “Mickey Lee’s BK Chow Mein” was a less memorable dish, but still did not disappoint. I forked my way into the Asian noodles, lightly dressed in a peanut sauce, with chopped up red cabbage, carrots, pop chow, and snow peas. The ingredients were a delight, but it lacked the extra punch needed to wow the senses. The flavors were harmoniously bound, familiar and comforting. If you are looking for a meal close to home, this one is for you; but personally, I’m going to stick to the jerk chicken because it is just that good.

iTal is the sidewalk portal to your quick Caribbean bite. Not only will you receive delicious, healthy meals but iTal’s compassion for its food and customers will linger in your heart as you take on the city streets.

 

[Feature image by Pexels]