I’ve written in the past that restaurant critics, over time, developed an innate sixth sense. But instead of seeing dead people we see dead restaurants. Or at least restaurants that are about to be dead. There’s just something about the look and feel of a place that tells us without even tasting the food that this visit isn’t going to turn out well.
But the opposite can also be true — call it a seventh sense — that when we enter a new restaurant, especially one we’ve never heard of before, we immediately know this is going to be good.
That’s what I felt when I walked into Kreyol Kafe & Bakery, a Haitian eatery in East Orlando. Despite the liberties taken with the spelling of its name, I immediately knew this was going to be a find. And I wasn’t disappointed.
That was due in large part to the woman who greeted me and took my order at the counter. She cheerily chatted about the dishes on the menu and how Haitian food differed from, say, Jamaican or other foods of the Caribbean. And we chatted about how Kreyol is different from Creole, if at all. (Both frequently use tomatoes as a base but the seasonings are quite different.)
I was also put at ease by the tidiness of the tiny space. Little details like that show a sense of pride and ownership, and that usually translates to the food.
And it did here. I ordered the Stewed Chicken in Kreyol Sauce, which was available in regular size at $7.95 and large at $9.50. I got the regular and I can’t imagine how many people the larger would have served. This was a lot of food.
And good, too. The Kreyol sauce, or Sos Kreyòl in Haitian, is not a smothering type of sauce but rather a grace note. Besides tomato base, it features parsley and thyme with carrots and onions and bell peppers, plus a little bit of heat. The sauce sat mostly under the stewed chicken, an ample amount of bird served on the bone. I wound up scooping the white rice that came with the chicken into the sauce to soak it up rather than spooning the black beans onto the rice. (The beans were good, but the sauce was better.)
I also had a Haitian Patte filled with beef. Similar to an empanada, the patte had a flakier crust similar to phyllo. I also got a side order of Pikliz, a sort of pickled cole slaw. Tangy and delicious.
As I left with my food, the woman who had been so welcoming also said she hoped I would come back.
I sense that I will.
Kreyol Kafe & Bakery is at 12014 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando (just east of Alafaya Trail). It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-930-6731.