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Agrikol:

Restoran Ayisyen Enkwayab

RESTAURANT CARIBBEAN HAITIAN GAY VILLAGE CASUAL <$40

Disclaimer: Although this meal was comped by Lightspeed POS as part of a promotional campaign, the restaurant in question was kept in the dark.  As always, we walked in unannounced and paid for our meal in full.

The Pitch

As much as we love eating out, the thought of lining up indefinitely keeps us away from popular restaurants with a no-reservations policy such as Schwartz's or Kazu.  Add to that list Agrikol, whose leave-your-number-we'll-call-you-back approach kept us at bay until tonight.  We were hoping that, eighteen months in, the initial buzz would have settled down and we would be able to nab a table immediately.

tagged:  CAN'T RESERVE

The Mood

Mood image

The Haitian restaurant/rum bar occupies the entirety of a gutted cottage on a quiet stretch of Amherst Street in The Village.  Our prayers were quickly answered when we were lead to the last free table on the ground floor; a later visit to the men's room revealed all tables upstairs were vacant, possibly signaling the end of lineups – at least on weekdays.

Given the names behind this venue – outspoken Toronto chef Jen Agg and indie act Arcade Fire's front couple – we were unjustly expecting a trend-seeking hipster/foodie scene.  In reality we faced a laidback, multiracial crowd of varying ages enjoying upbeat – and loud! – Afro-Caribbean rock tunes.

tagged:  SPEAK UP!

The Food

The plastic-held tabletop menu starts off with classic as well as inventive rum-based koktels.  Otherwise there is a limited choice of beer and wine by the glass, for less adventurous types.  Grub-wise, a concise menu of Haitian/Caribbean specialties is split into snacks and larger plates.  We advise heat seekers to top off their food with the jarred pikliz – pickled cabbage and hot peppers – offered on each table.

Acras thumbnail (click to enlarge)

Starter

Starter

$7

$7

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Acras

"Haitian beignets".  We got started with freshly-fried, crispy bite-size cod croquettes housing a perfectly fluffy, fishy interior.

Céviché thumbnail (click to enlarge)

Starter

Starter

$13

$13

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Céviché

A refreshing bowl of cured seafood in a rich marinade was served with splendid banan pézé – fried plantain.

Lambi et riz thumbnail (click to enlarge)

Main

Main

$23

$23

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Lambi et riz

Our first sampling of conch – a marine snail – revealed it to possess a nice, meaty texture, but surprisingly tasting like chicken; meh.

Queue de boeuf, sauce pois thumbnail (click to enlarge)

Main

Main

$20

$20

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Queue de boeuf, sauce pois

Tasty, fatty oxtail sat next to white rice, a bowl of sos pwa – black bean sauce/puree – and more of those irresistible plantain fritters.

tagged:  ORIGINAL DRINKS

The Service

Our young waiter dude was outgoing and chatty, while applying the right level of decibels so we could hear him over the blasting music.  Plates and several rounds of drinks arrived without much delay, although a beer at the end of the night was forgotten altogether; we were told staff changed shifts, so we let it slide.

The Verdict

What we wrongly anticipated to be an outing spent lining up for a pricey meal while rubbing elbows with snap-happy scene-sters turned out to be a fun, chill evening fueled by potent cocktails and affordable exotic food.  Whether you're looking for a neighborhood haunt or a destination restaurant, Agrikol will answer your call.  Bon bagay!

tagged:  SOLID

Price per person:  $31.50

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514eats

Montreal restaurant and bar reviews brought to you by two regular guys who like to eat and drink.  We will go anywhere and we will say it like it is.

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