Just the name of this place evokes thoughts of the exotic. The "queen of the tropics," the hibiscus is a beautifully delicate flower, a name that aptly applies to this newest sensation on Brookside.
Hibiscus Caribbean Bar & Grill is a small and cozy place specializing in West Indian and Caribbean style cuisine. Probably foreign to most Tulsa diners, this cuisine incorporates the native spices of this region, particularly the jerk spices, which according to owner Taylor LaTouche, has pepper as the dominant ingredient.(Scotch Bonnet--similar to the habanero--is the pepper so named because it resembles a Scotsman's bonnet.)
Taylor and her husband, Vincent, who is the head chef and co-owner, have shifted previous business interests with this venture.
"I owned a jewelry business," said Taylor, while her husband was in the medical business. "The idea of Hibiscus began because my husband is from Jamaica and he loves to cook," recalled Taylor. They wanted to create a restaurant to share their love of cooking with the community; "support the community and bring the community together," Taylor said.
Hibiscus Caribbean Bar & Grill is a comfy and cute place. Taylor runs the bar and front area while Vincent is busy in the kitchen doing what comes naturally to him. "He did not go to any culinary school," Taylor said, "but he did cook in the army and he has taken a few online courses to get the restaurant lingo. I think that being a chef is an innate talent; it's an art form."
The food and the drink menus are filled with artistically creative dishes. Appetizers include Jamaican patties, Ocho Rios wings, Kingston chicken strips and fried plantain--all no more than $8.99.
We began with the Jamaican patties ($4.99), which are pastry turnovers filled with the customer's choice of beef, chicken or vegetables. We had the beef version, which turned out quite satisfying. The flaky crust was light orange in color; finely ground beef was the stuffing and a honey Dijon-style mustard sauce was available for dipping. These meat pies were a good start to our dinner.
Soups and salads, sandwiches, "Off the Pan", veggie delights and entrees are featured selections. "Off the Pan", as Taylor explained, is an authentically ethnic cultural style of Caribbean barbecue. You use a tin garbage can, cut it in half, and fill it with charcoals, thus creating a barbecue to cook the meat.
The "Off the Pan" choices come with either rice and beans, fried plantains, French fries, steamed veggies or a side salad, for an additional $1.99. My friend ordered The Lil' Jerk ($9.99) from this menu section, which was a half chicken marinated in spicy jerk seasoning and fire grilled topped with special hibiscus sauce. (Other items from "Off the Pan" include larger sizes of the chicken--the Super Big Jerk, the Big Jerk--as well as That Jerks a Pig (two jerk marinated pork chops), Beefy Jerk (8 oz. sirloin marinated and jerk seasoned), Fishy Jerk (grilled and jerk seasoned Tilapia) and That Jerks a Shrimp (10 jumbo Gulf shrimp).)
We both found The Lil' Jerk a great tasting blend of spices with deeply grilled chicken. This one-quarter of chicken was very crispy, even charred on some parts, which was very tasty with the jerk spices. It was not too hot even though the Scotch Bonnet pepper is one of the hottest peppers in the world. This pepper has a sweet aroma and a unique flavor, different from its Habanero cousin. The beans and rice were tasty, but nothing too special; the veggie was another native item, Callaloo, a firm leafy vegetable that has the texture of wilted greens or kale.
I ordered the Caribbean curry shrimp ($12.99) which was a dish of 12 Gulf shrimp sautéed with tomatoes in authentic Jamaican curry spice and served with white rice. This was a stew-like dish with red and green bell peppers, tomatoes and onions, all softly sautéed. The blend of all ingredients was memorable. I ordered fried plantains with my dish; they were fried lightly and soft.
We also shared a cup of the Pepper Pot soup, which was served in a tall cup. This soup had a distinct flavor of rich broth (possibly a fish-based stock) and was filled with callaloo, carrots and yam, a firm, potato-like vegetable native to the Caribbean. It had a good, hot spiciness to it, but the heat was not unbearable.
Taylor prides herself on running the bar, and it is not just any ordinary bar. "We market ourselves as a rum bar, like what you would find in Jamaica. We serve a good variety of authentic rum." She also has special rum drinks of the day, a few favorites being Rum Punch, Sorrel and Ginger Beer (which is similar to a mojito, a tart drink of rum with a ginger mix). I ordered a Bahama Mama W&N ($9), a nice, stiff drink comprised of white rum, Appleton Dark Rum, Captain Morgan Rum, Malibu, and pineapple, lemon and cherry juices.
Depending on the evening, dining at Hibiscus Caribbean Bar & Grill can be more than just eating and drinking Jamaican style. The Wednesday my friend and I dined, it was Poetry and Open Mic night, starting around 8pm. Aspiring poets were invited to take center stage and present a poetry reading. My friend and I were extremely impressed with the quality of the rich words in the poetry spoken from the heart from each person. Also on this night, bottles of white wine were half price.
Music fills the air on other nights. Taylor said she plans to continue to offer varying things in the hopes of involving the community to be part of the activity, such as local artists' exhibits.
Hibiscus Caribbean Bar & Grill
3316 S. Peoria Ave.
Mon.-Thurs. 11am-3pm; 5pm-11pm
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