Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A French Caribbean Dinner: Chez Lucie

Last week, I dined in Martinique.  Maygan & Kyle have been going to this place called Chez Lucie for a long time.  It's just around the corner from their apartment, and the owner is quite a character.  He is infamous for his high pitched laugh and cartoon-y voice when he gets excited and friendly, which is always.
The restaurant is tiny - I'm at the very back corner right now, and that's the front door.  And it's warm and jovial, packed with customers, and Caribbean music comes floating out of the kitchen along with the jolly host.

We started out with a big delicious appetizer to split:
A huge pile of hush puppy-like fritters, a crisp seafood wanton, stuffed crab, creole blood sausage, and another spicy little crab mixture topped with yet another delicious fritter of sorts.  

Then, in the top right, if you will please note the bowl of condiment item.  Now normally you would think this is a tapenade of sorts.  Perhaps even a nice salsa.  Considering its generous size, you'd think you should slather that on top of your delicious food.  When he sets it down, he warns you that it's strong, but strong is an understatement.  If you had a spoonful of this stuff, it would literally kill you.  Your life - over.  In a Creole Martinique restaurant in Paris.  

Kyle warned me about the appropriate amount I should be adding to my fritter.
And I'm thinking - Pshhhh!  Come on.  Really?  I order Level 3 at Thai Restaurants!  As in, "1/2/3" -Level 3, "mild/medium/spicy" -Spicy! Painfully spicy but I like it that way.  I can handle heat.  I love it.  My most frequently used spice is red pepper flakes, shaken with frivolous and reckless abandon.  I want added heat to everything!  

In fact, my heat tolerance has dramatically increased over the years, and top level Thai spice is the only thing that ever gets close to "too spicy".  You know, when it hurts so much that it's no longer enjoyable to eat.  And your nose is running uncontrollably and tears are falling involuntarily.  Take that and knock it down a notch.  That's the kind of spicy I like.

So when Kyle showed me this little tidbit tiny half lentil-sized amount, I was like: That. is. ridiculous.

But let me tell you...he was RIGHT.  That teeny tiny dollup placed upon my big hush puppy fritter set my mouth on fire.  I liked it - but with that tee-niny dollup!! Can you IMAGINE if you slathered a spoonful on?? Which is exactly what I would have done.  My head would have burst into flames, and I never would have gotten to try the bananas flambé at the end of the meal.  Anyway - I have no idea what kind of chili peppers they put in that thing, but that is CRAY.

As the evening continued, we danced to Caribbean music as one is known to do in Martinique...
and we ate falling-off-the-bone tender and ridiculously flavorful chicken.

Did I mention that I accidentally knocked over a pile of about 27 jackets while coming out of the restroom, spilling them into the kitchen?  Right in the middle of the busiest most bustling peak busy time, which I'm sure the owner appreciated.  It's cool, he saw a wallet fall out of some jacket and put it in his apron pocket. A finders-keepers philosophy, I see.

Also, going to the bathroom was like playing Mouse Trap.  You had to squeeze behind a little closet door, into the broom closet-like area, and then behind another tinier door.  You could barely fit into the bathroom with the toilet, the flusher didn't exist, and instead there was a set of rubber bands connected to something rising towards the ceiling, and to some other spot on the toilet that was inaccessible, and you just pulled the dual rubber bands in the middle. Then to wash your hands, you figure out that to turn on the water, you have to push a metal lever with your knee that's sticking out from under the sink.  All in all, an awesome experience. Then you squeeze back outside and knock over the jackets of everyone in the restaurant, and someone goes home without their wallet.

For dessert, we ordered bananas flambé.
How scary was it that as soon as part of the fire would go out, several seconds would go buy....and it would reignite in full force?  This happened 5 or 6 times.  Thus creating, and rightfully so, the fear that as soon as that thing extinguished, we'd all go in for a bite, put it in our mouths, and it would once again burst into flames.

Fortunately, it did not burst into flames mid-mouth, but we did come down with a bad case of Banana Vein.

When you feel those arms stiffening up...you just know.  Ask Kyle, that's how he got this scar.

Incidentally, we couldn't get over the fact that Kyle's body looks tiny in comparison with his head in this picture. Undoubtedly another side effect of the Banana Vein.

As we shut down the place, there was only one remaining table, a large table of friends who kept breaking out into a jolly rendition of "Oppy Birflaf".  It was Maygan & Kyle's one year in France, so I wished them an Oppy Birflaf, we sang along with the rest of the Birflaf crew, chatted and laughed with the owner for a while, said hello to his wife from Martinique (the chef, of course), and then we were on our merry way.

I can't wait to return to dig into another pile of fritters slathered in perhaps a dollop and a half of fire-y Carribean spice.  Oppy Birflaf!

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