Crown Heights must have more Caribbean restaurants than anywhere outside of the Caribbean (and probably more than a lot of places in the Caribbean). As much as we love all those hole-in-the-wall curry joints and doubles spots, there’s not much that distinguishes one from another (feel free to chime in with objections, die-hard loyalists of Gloria’s/Ali’s/The Islands, etc..) However, The Food Sermon, a new kind of hole-in-the-wall that opened here last month, manages to stand out from the crowd.
The small space on the corner or Rogers Avenue and Sullivan Place is a welcoming little spot with two full walls of windows looking out on the avenue, a white subway tile open kitchen, and just a few seats at dual counters facing the street. It’s the first restaurant venture from catering vet Rawlston Williams, who grew up in the Caribbean island country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and graduated from the French Culinary Institute in 2012. Williams studied theology before finding his calling in the kitchen (hence “the Food Sermon”), and he’s now turning out grub that could certainly be called soul-pleasing. His cuisine is also a cut above most of the neighborhood joints, and not just because it’s dramatically plated on sleek white serving ware.
The bulk of the menu is made of “island bowls” — your choice of lamb, chicken, tofu or fish, steeped in either coconut ginger sauce or a spicy tomato counterpart, all over either white rice, yukon gold potatoes, or chickpeas and rice. I opted for the lamb, moist slices that are as tender as you’ll find anywhere, with a beautiful char on the exterior, while the coconut ginger sauce is a thick, creamy delight, bursting with flavor.
Williams’ take on the neighborhood’s ubiquitous roti–stewed curry wrapped up in Indian flatbreads–comes plated rather than wrapped. The juicy curried chicken is served in a warming stew of spinach, chickpeas and pumpkin, while the two hot breads come on the side, so you can wrap your own roti or just tear off the bread piece by piece to soak up the delicious stew.
There are also more “usual suspects” as they’re called on the menu, such as curry chicken or goat, served over red beans and rice, and daily specials like a savory oxtail stew on one recent visit. More exciting is the fresh salad option, a rare find in Caribbean restaurants here, and a helpful addition to balance out all this meat. Juicy strands of pickled mango are mixed up with slices of granny smith apple, cucumbers and fresh greens, with a tamarind vinaigrette that adds some kick.
While it’s brand new and barely publicized, I’d already say the Food Sermon is one of the neighborhood’s best Caribbean spots. The beautifully plated food is a warming balance to this wintry weather that doesn’t seem to want to go away, and it’s nice to see some new places opening on quiet Rogers Ave. (Branch Ofc, a solid bar with cocktails, sandwiches and a huge outdoor space, also just opened a few blocks north). But best of all is that while whenever you see the word “elevated” next to “cuisine,” you can usually bet the prices have also been elevated by at least 50 percent, that’s not the case here. Rotis go for just $6.50, while the island bowls are $7 to $11 for a “small” portion that is anything but.
355 Rogers Avenue (at Sullivan Place); 718.484.7555; thefoosermon.com