Calabash Bistro is a Caribbean-themed restaurant and lounge located in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. With a 35-seat restaurant on the main floor and a 40-seat lounge downstairs, it has quietly gone about becoming a hotspot for Caribbean food, drinks, as well as live entertainment throughout the week. I was invited to come preview their new brunch menu this past week.
I was greeted with warm smiles from their friendly staff and handed a lassis right when I arrived. This traditional refreshing Indian drink is made with yoghurt, fresh fruit, spices, pistachio, and honey. Of course, this was just a sampler size. It’s usually served in a much larger glass for $7.
“Growing up, weekend brunch was an important time for my family to connect over classic Caribbean dishes,” he explained. “We want our guests at Calabash to feel at home in our space, while taking the time to catch up with friends and family, and explore new Caribbean flavours mixed with Western classics.” – Cullin David, Executive Chef (shown on the left)
Definitely more original than standard bread baskets, these fried coconut dumplings were served with mango or guava butter. They came fresh out of the kitchen, so the soft butter spread easily into their warm and soft centres. They also typically serve this with roti (Indian bread) and salara (coconut roll), but we didn’t get to try any of those.
Along with our 3-course brunch, we were treated to a trio of cocktails as well. Available upon request, these cocktails can also be prepared as non-alcoholic. But then it wouldn’t be a boozy brunch, so how fun would that be, right? Left to right:
- Passion Fruit & Guava Mimosa – Pares Balta organic sparkling wine, passion fruit juice, guava juice
- Dark & Stormy – Ginger-infused Gosling’s Rum, house-made ginger beer, Angostura bitters, ginger syrup
- Coconut Jumby – El Dorado 3 year old rum shaken with coconut water, agave syrup, muddled lemongrass, mint, lime zest
In addition to their cocktails, they also boast the largest collection of rum in the city. So rum aficionados, take note because they also offer a selection of rum flights as well.
Okay, enough about that, let’s move on to the food. Please note that all of these dishes were intentionally portioned a bit smaller than usual, so that we were able to sample more dishes.
Escovitch Fish ($14) – A traditional Caribbean breakfast. Pan-seared snapper, tangy Escovitch sauce, fried plantain, fresh cucumber, rice and peas. As snapper is generally quite a mild fish, the tangy sauce really complimented it quite well. I didn’t really care for the rice though, but I was also saving my stomach for the other dishes.
Oxtail stew brunch bowl ($13) – Oxtail stew, 2 poached eggs, fried plantains, coconut rundown hollandaise, rice & peas. This dish packs a spicy punch, so if you don’t mind the heat, then I would highly recommend this. The oxtail was stewed perfectly and fell apart quite nicely. I also love that they use free-range eggs. This dish seemed to be a crowd favourite. I would definitely get this again the next time I’m here.
Salara French Toast ($12) – Fresh baked traditional Guyanese coconut bread, fresh-cut fruit, banana cream, and spiced mango maple syrup. The coconut bread made it quite a bit lighter than conventional French toasts, and they didn’t batter it too heavily which was good. It was really the accompaniments that made this dish stand out, as I really enjoyed the spiced mango maple syrup.
Brunch is served on Saturdays and Sundays from 10am-3pm, so be sure to pay them a visit. Reservations can be made directly from their website. Or if you’re looking for an evening out on the town, be check out their regularly updated music and events schedule.
Disclaimer: The meal was complimentary, but I was not paid for this blog post. All content is solely based on my opinions and experiences.