Le Lambí Brings Home-Style Haitian Cuisine to Kendall
Over the course of an hour, two other groups -- large families -- walk in, and it turns out they all know each other. Hugs and kisses ensue before each group makes its way to the kitchen to greet the staff and Corine Baez, the restaurant owner. "Chicken and viandes?" she calls moments later to a 20-something man in a white tank top who sidles up and sits at the counter. "Yup," he says with a knowing smile.
|Friday-night "street food" platter|
The menu is simple -- just six entrées, divided into half seafood and half meat, a handful of sides, and another handful of appetizers, mostly fritters of various types. The signature item is lambí ($12), as you might guess from the name of the restaurant. The slowly stewed conch in a tomato-based sauce dotted with peppers, onions, and spices is criminally tender and spicy enough to render lips numb for a good ten minutes. Those with less tolerance for Caribbean hot peppers can opt for poulet en sauce ($7): chicken drumsticks, with meat that falls off the bone, in a similar but milder creole sauce.
Each entrée is served with two sides, and an additional one costs $2. Riz et pois -- rice and peas -- gets its speckled black-and-white color not from black beans but djon-djon, a mushroom native to northern parts of Haiti that lends the dish a nutty complexity.
|Decor is filled with little details... down to the bathrooms|
Le Lambí's quirky, homey ambiance, in which some patrons are so comfortable they go behind the counter to serve their own glasses of water, makes it easier to accept sometimes island-paced service. Baez is often the only one working the counter, serving tables, and helping in the kitchen. Her schoolteacher husband and two sons usually arrive to help in the afternoon. One son is frequently "stressed out" when the place gets packed, Baez says, so he picks up a guitar from the corner to play music that calms him and entertains guests.
Really, it's hard to be mad at a server when he's strumming slow folk tunes in your direction, and everyone around you is willing to help the owner as though they are personally invested in the restaurant's success. The savory, lush platters of comfort food help too.
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