Yup, it’s going to be another of those posts that starts with me reminiscing about my youth… Perhaps this is just what happens when you’re approaching 40? Soon after I graduated, I moved to Brixton in South London. I’ve heard that it’s now gentrified beyond belief, but back in 2004 it was still pretty rough around the edges. One of its best qualities, however, was Electric Avenue, which had a fabulous daily market selling every kind of ultra-hot chilli, sweet-starchy yams and a great deal of other loosely Caribbean ingredients besides. Down Brixton Water Lane, there was also a laidback and very gezellig (not that I knew the word gezellig back then) Jamaican café called Mango Landin’, which introduced me to jerk chicken and rum cocktails at the tender age of 23. Ever since then, I’ve had a weakness for Caribbean food, but hadn’t managed to find anything that really hit the jerk spot until I went to Cool Runnings in Michigan City, Indiana. Alas, with Lake Michigan being a hefty 6,500 kilometres away, that doesn’t help us much here in Holland. So instead, I went on a quest to find Caribbean food in Amsterdam; here are the results so far…
Even in chilly Dutch November, Plato Loco is warm and welcoming. The restaurant is clad in bare red brick, and features a breeze-block bar, plenty of hanging plants and even a bird cage (the parrot inside is not alive!), while the man serving us was equally warm and enthusiastic. To kick off proceedings, we shared the Plato Loco mixed starter for €15, comprising crispy empanadas filled with minced meat, jerk chicken wings and bacalao croquettes. But the stars of the show were the dipping sauces: one mango-based, one coriander-based and one-tomato based, all a little sweet and a little spicy.
Not having had enough jerk wings by this point, I ordered the jerk chicken as a main course as well. Overall, it tasted good but could’ve used a bit more oomph and perhaps some extra jerk sauce on the side. However, I did like the rice and beans it came with – they had a potent garlicky flavour, which again went well with the green (coriander-based) sauce. Plus, there was a sort of basic coleslaw that was refreshing and crispy.
Mr Foodie got the pork ribs, which tasted more Asian than Caribbean, while my other Midwestern dining buddy got the ropa vieja – a tasty, lightly spiced beef stew that I’d not tried elsewhere. We split a flan for dessert (a slightly heavier version of a crème caramel) and forced ourselves out of our food coma to make the long bike ride back from West to Oost. Dinner came to €38 each, including a couple of glasses of wine and a tip, which felt entirely reasonable for what we ate. Despite my reservations about the level of spice-oomph in the jerk chicken, Plato Loco was an experience I’d be happy to repeat.
Ed’s Caribbean Street Food @ Cut Throat Barber
Meanwhile, you’ll find Ed’s Caribbean Street Food popping up (for a while already) at Cut Throat Barber, in an atmospheric vault that’s in the same style as (or perhaps even part of?) the Beurs van Berlage. And it couldn’t be more hipster if it tried: literally, they are trimming hipster beards at the barbershop next door. The bar was as well-stocked as you’d expect from such an establishment, mixing up a good Dark & Stormy and serving an excellent glass of Primitivo. The Peach Punch, however, tasted more like iced tea than a rum cocktail – more watery and less boozy than you’d expect for the price tag.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, at least a couple of the dishes on the menu were the same. The empanadas were good, dusted with icing sugar and served with red and yellow salsas of varying chilli-heat.
Dinner came to €35 each, so very much in the mid-range ballpark. Presumably because Ed’s Caribbean is a pop-up, the chefs serve the dishes in cardboard containers with wooden cutlery on plastic trays. I get it, but you can give me proper tableware any day – especially if you’re charging restaurant prices.
I’m inevitably reaching the same conclusion I almost always reach: more research is (tragically!) needed. I tried Rum Barrel back in 2015 soon after it opened, which was more cocktails and bar snacks than full meals. And I’ve not yet been to Boótoe, but it’s high on my to-eat list for Caribbean BBQ. Where else have you found to eat Caribbean food in Amsterdam? Let me know in the comments below!