I don't eat a lot of Caribbean food and I don't visit Bedford-Stuyvesent often, so last Saturday night was pretty rare on to fronts. I had dinner at a new Trinidadian cuisine place called Trini Gul (read: "Trinidad Girl") at 543 Nostrand Avenue, near Atlantic. It wasn't a random adventure. I know the woman who, with her husband, recently opened this small restaurant. She's a Trinidad native, an excellent cook and a very exacting, proper personality. (She gave me a jar of wondrous, homemade, hot pepper sauce that I put on about everything.) So I figured, in eating at her restaurant, I would more than likely be in for some tasty native food served with professionalism and an attention to detail. Such proved to be the case. (If it hadn't been the case, I wouldn't be writing about the joint.)
The subtitle of the place is "Original Roti" and Roti is the central attraction here. Roti is a spongy flatbread (it reminds me of injera, the traditional Ethiopian bread), that is wrapped around a variety of toothsome fillings, such as curry chicken, curry shrimp, curry goat, curry conch, curry potato and stew fish. There are many kinds of roti. Trini Gul uses Dhalpuri, a roti with a stuffing of ground yellow split peas, which the place makes fresh at all hours of the day. I tried the goat roti; as well as aloo pie, a soft, fried pastry made from flour and water, and filled with mashed potatoes; and pholourie, little spongy balls of split pea flour fried and served with a thin spicy sauce.
Everything was very good (and very cheap; I barely spent $15), but nothing mesmerized quite like the deep fried shark. I had never eaten shark before. I expected it would be tough and chewy, but it was tender and moist, and perfectly seasoned with hot sauce and tamarind. I could eat fried shark every day. When served with fried dough, it's called Bake and Shark, which is one of the funniest food names I've ever heard. Apparently, Bake and Shark is not easy to find, because good fresh shark is hard to find in NYC.
Trini Gul also serves breakfast, offering such dishes as salt fish, smoked herring, pumpkin, spinach and fry fish. (Breakfast is apparently a very different affair in Trinidad.) There are also a lot of native Trinidadian drinks, most of them quite sweet, and "hot doubles," a popular street food that is hard to describe. You'll have to go and see for yourself.
Trini Gul's owners told me word of the authentic Trinidad food has quickly spread among the West indian population in Bed-Stuy; one night they ran out of food there was such rapid trade. The nabe should know, since one of the better-known roti joints in New York, Ali's Trinidad Roti Shack, is just a couple blocks away. The restaurant plans to get a beer and wine license soon.