This is a blog about my travels. My "regular" life is much too boring to bother blogging about.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

TG = future Pulitzer Prize winner

So I am currently writing for a monthly campus newspaper called the Grapevine. Quite unexpectedly too: my editor approached me after a few Irish car bombs and I was quite happy to help out. I am quite happy to do most things after a few Irish car bombs. The deal was initially to write a sports column, but I'm now also penning a restaurant column and various other things (hopefully a music column soon?). It's all quite exciting. I've become bored with writing academic papers and the Grapevine gives me an opportunity to express myself in a different and much more interesting way. I think the Grapevine is Western's "alternative" student publication, and my editor wants us to write as informally as possible. I can use as many expletives as I want. It beats the hell out of the shit I produce from 9 to 5.

My first batch of articles was mediocre at best but I guess that's to be expected... I'm not exactly experienced in this kind of writing. My sports column was a piece of shit, but a lot of that was circumstance's fault. I wanted to write a retrospective on J.P. Ricciardi's tenure as Jays GM, because I was fully expecting JP to get the sack. Well, about a day before my deadline news filtered out of Toronto that Cito Gaston was being extended as manager, which made it likely J.P. would hang on for at least another year. So I have to completely reshape my column into a 2009 Jays lookahead. I pinpointed the Jays lack of offense as their most pressing offseason issue, which it was... until two days after I passed in my story, at which point I found out that Shawn Marcum signed up for Tommy John surgery and Dustin McGowan likely wouldn't be ready for the start of the season. And of course I didn't mention pitching at all. What a piss off!

The restaurant column went much better. Notice my using the term "column" instead of "review". I prefer not to assign grades or anything like that in my column, I'm instead cherry picking places I already like, and writing about how awesome they are. I have intention of being critical, because London's dining scene/culture is such a pathetic joke that it strikes me as preferable to try and build it up rather than be negative. For example: I've been at Hong Ping, my favourite Chinese place in the city, on three separate nights when I've been the only patron in the joint. This is an A+ restaurant about a 5-10 minute walk from downtown (albeit in a dodgy part of town), and it's frequently less than 25% full. Meanwhile, all the overpriced, mediocre places downtown or on Richmond Row are rammed, pretty much every night. It's a ridiculous state of affairs - one which I hope to fight against by highlighting good restos in out of the way locations and praising the hell out of them.

So here is my inaugural resto column. Turns out it's difficult to use a lot of qualitative descriptors in one paragraph.


OK, so London isn’t exactly a dining mecca. But still, doesn’t it seem like there should be more options for West Indian food? The choices here are sadly limited: Island Style on Hamilton Road has been serving up Jamaican food for a long time, Jambalaya on Richmond Row has rotis and a few other Caribbean inspired dishes, and West Indian curry cravings can also be satiated at the New Delhi Deli in Covent Garden. Beyond that, serious aficionados have to make the trek to Hamilton or to one of the hundreds of good places in the GTA. So naturally I was curious when I heard scuttlebutt that a Trinidadian-run place had opened in East London. When I was informed that the food was actually pretty good, I assembled a great gang of hungry friends, herded them onto the #2 bus and went off to investigate this place myself.

As it turns out, Trini Town isn’t a “new” restaurant in the strictest sense. Located amid a dystopian stretch of car dealerships, strip malls and big box outlets on Dundas east of Highbury, it occupies the same building as the former White House Pizza, which closed not too long ago when the owners retired. But a new proprietor with a delightful Trini accent took over the building, dusted off White House’s pizza recipes (including the White House special, featuring ingredients such as saltfish, pimento peppers and tamarind sauce), added a menu full of West Indian fare and voila! Trini Town was born.

And thank goodness for that, because the food was very, very good. We were unfortunately limited in what we could order due to an inopportune shortage of saltfish and oxtail, but we still managed to sample a large portion of the menu between the six of us. The jerk chicken, accompanied by a veritable mountain of rice & peas and some coleslaw ($14), was a revelation: it was fall-off-the-bone tender, practically melting in my mouth. This dish, like all mains, was served with tamarind sauce and a blazing hot scotch bonnet pepper sauce that is not to be taken lightly. A bunch of us ordered rotis, which come in vegetarian, chicken, beef (all $10), goat ($13) and shrimp ($15) varieties. These too were freshly made and scrumptious, with whole chickpeas instead of that dubious paste that some restaurants insist on using, and big hunks of meat. The Trini San Coche ($14), a beef, lentil and dumpling soup, was also a standout: it was aromatic, savoury, and incredibly filling. But the fried okra and melogne (both $4) side dishes may have stolen the show. The okra was dusted with cornmeal, lightly fried, bursting with flavour and left us wanting more. The melogne consisted of baked eggplant mashed with garlic, a no-nonsense and tasty compliment to the main courses.

Trini Town is the kind of place where you walk in starving and waddle away bursting, but don’t expect to be in and out in half an hour. The food takes an excruciatingly long time to emerge, a wait made worse by the tantalizing smells wafting in from the kitchen. And the service, though friendly and apologetic (the owner/cook gave my friend a hug after his order was screwed up), was disorganized and left a lot to be desired. But these are minor quibbles, easily outweighed by the quality of the food offer. Go, and go often.

Trini Town
Address: 1487 Dundas Street (east of Hale) – take bus #2 (Dundas) from UWO or downtown
Phone: (519) 453-0066‎
Alcohol: Yes
Wheelchair Access: Yes, through a street level doorway.
Vegetarian Friendly: Yes (veggie roti, veggie curry, corn soup, a plethora of sides)
Credit Cards: All types of plastic accepted
Price: roughly $20 per person for main, side and drink
Delivery: Available for pizza, but delivery coverage isn’t city wide.


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