Caribbean Plate may have opened its doors this winter, but this new Falls Church restaurant is serving up Island cuisine that brings to mind much warmer days.
A tropical transformation takes place when stepping in from the chilly outdoors. Bright tones of orange, green, and blue color the walls. A beach scene, with an oversized parrot at the foreground, plays out across one length of the restaurant. Big beach umbrellas hanging from the ceiling, lined in festive lights, cover the dining room. Fish bob around the coral in their massive 200-gallon tank.
At the center of this oceanfront decor is a counter where customers can place their orders from a varied but not overwhelming menu. Several menu sections, each with its own colorful placard mounted behind the counter, offer a handful of options to choose from. The meat pies and empanadas are the first attention-grabbers, though, as the palm-sized dough pockets are ready-made and waiting for selection in a clear counter-top container. The Jamaican Meat Pie ($3.49) variety is, like the others, served in a crescent-shaped bit of pastry crimped at its edges, this selection filled with loose ground meat that is spiced but mild.
The Pepper Shots ($4.95) among the starters, despite the intimidating name, are similarly timid with heat. Here, a quartet of ruby-red roasted piquillo peppers are stuffed with cheese and ground meat, with savory flavors complementing the sweetness of the peppers.
Sandwiches, at $7.25 apiece with a side, are a bargain lunch pick. The Jerk Club has tender but plain chicken as its focus, but the addition of strips of bacon, a slice of smoked gouda cheese, and tangy aji mayo make for a flavorful sandwich. Served on two massive planks of grilled garlic bread, the sandwich is built for hearty appetites, and sides like red beans, island rice, and fried yucca ensure hunger is satisfied. The Rum-Glazed Plantains ($1.75 for an order) are a stand-out side; the glistening slices of syrupy plantain are cooked to soft sweetness.
The Charcoal Chicken is highlighted among the entree options. Slow roasted and served with two sides, the chicken ranges in price from $6.49 for a quarter of a chicken, dark meat, up to $15.95 for the whole bird. The chicken is served from the charcoal oven with a thin, lightly charred, crackling skin and moist meat. The basic charcoal variety is flavorful, but jerk and hot flavors ratchet up the heat.
The Curried Chicken ($7.95) is the most popular of the platters menu section. The dish offers pieces of chicken, tender and barely clinging to the bone, in a mild red curry made sweet with coconut milk and served with a side of rice.
While starters, snacks, salads, sandwiches, platters, desserts, and more vie for attention, the drinks should not be overlooked. The coffee is pressed freshly by order, and blended coffee drinks come in flavors that range from the standard vanilla to the intriguing pumpkin pie. The Greek yogurt smoothies – made with fruit, cane sugar, and honey – come in a few sweet flavor combinations and are easily sipped.
Affordable eats, crowd-pleasing heat levels, and a range of sweet and spicy Caribbean fare are big draws to this new restaurant, and the “snowquester” raging outside makes the idea of an island getaway at Caribbean Plate all the more appealing.
Caribbean Plate is located at 133 E. Annandale Road, Falls Church. For more information, call 703-942-8580 or visit thecaribbeanplate.com. Restaurant hours are Monday – Sunday: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.