A wonderful little restaurant has opened up in Kensington Market to introduce Torontonians to a brand new type of food: the cuisine of the French Caribbean. Le Ti Colibri at 291 Augusta serves up recipes from the islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe, making it the first restaurant in town (aside from the Haitian La Belle Jacmel) to serve the flavours of the West Indies en français.
Opening up in the space of the lacklustre Spicy Grill Indo Pak Cusine, the couple behind Le Ti Colibri (which means the little hummingbird) have transformed the unused back patio into a slice of beach-inspired island bliss. The romantic slow dance rhythms of the zouk music will quickly have you daydreaming about your next southern vacation.
The food is the type of fare that co-owner Kristel Procida, a former marketing manager, used to buy from food trucks in her home island of Guadeloupe. "We like spicy food and our recipes are influenced by other islands, by South America and France," she explains. For example, the chayote is a French-style au gratin dish made from a Caribbean gourd ($5.99). Tarte créole is another hybrid creation, a quiche filled with tuna and cooked with coconut milk ($4.99). On the weekends, the restaurant serves coconut sorbet, made with a hand-crank like they do on the island beaches.
Appetizers include the saltfish fritters (above), a made-to-order greasy treat with a subtle salty fish flavour ($4.25). The hefty creole sandwiches (bokit) are made with oversized fried bread which Kristel says dates back from the time of slavery, when people didn't have ovens. You can get the sandwich stuffed with various fillings, including a pureed blend of avocado, saltfish and cassava. However, don't expect to see meat on the menu—co-owner Matthias Laurin, a Martinique native—is a pescatarian who used to be a chef at the meat-free restaurants Urban Herbivore and Fressen.
The couple feels their Kensington Market location is the right place to introduce a new type of food to the city. "It's a magic neighbourhood where people come to discover things, so it's perfect place for us," says Kristel.
Le Ti Colibri is at 291 Augusta Ave. Tel: 416 925 2223. Hours are Tuesday and Wednesday 12pm to 8pm; Thursday-Saturday 12pm to 10pm; Sunday 12pm to 8pm.
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