First Republic, Elizabeth, New Jersey
Beef Tasso vs. Chicken Piké
First Republic is a cute little place that knows exactly who it is. Unafraid to stand out from the crowd and be different, diners here are sure to have a great time. Whether you’re just stopping in to have a drink and chat with the world’s friendliest bartender, Dani, or you’re coming in for their Sunday salsa lessons, First Republic is your stop for a great Caribbean lounge.
My beef tasso was almost everything it claimed to be. These large, well-seasoned beef hunks were a pleasure to behold. The seasoning was not-quite-smoky, not-quite-spicy, not-quite-salty and all-around delicious. My only complaint is that the beef was a tad overdone and tough. But I like my steak rare, so perhaps other diners won’t be as let down.
Black rice. Wow. I’d never heard of it before and I don’t think my life will ever be the same again. Dani described it as rice cooked with mushrooms, but the mushrooms get taken out before the final product is complete. So the rice drinks up all that lovely, earthy flavor and color but retains its integrity as a grain. Although I’m not a huge fan of mushrooms, Dani seemed so excited about it that I decided to give it a whirl – I’m so so so glad I did.
The black rice came out soft and fluffy, like a down pillow fresh from a plumping. There was no distinct mushroom flavor, rather the rice had a lovely nuttiness to it with subtle undertones of earth. The smell wafting towards my eager nose was heavenly, eclipsed only by that incredible, unique flavor. It’s no wonder why the Haitians save this miraculous side for special occasions.
Amazing as that black rice was, the crème de la crème was the pikliz. This is, in my opinion, the greatest condiment on the planet. Cole slaw’s mature, spicy, sophisticated older cousin, pikliz is shredded and pickled veggies with not a hint of mayo and a whole overload of flavor. It paired well with literally everything on my plate. Everything. And it’s actually spicy!
I’ll be back.
Celebrating my birthday at the National Apple Harvest Festival was a blast, but Legs insisted that a birthday dinner was in order at an arena of my choosing. I was feeling a bit Caribbean and decided to try something I haven’t experienced in ages; the joy of Haitian food.
Growing up I had a best friend, Nate, who was Haitian and still remember the smell of his mother’s cooking filling the house. Call it nostalgia or inexperience, but Nate’s mom made one of the best spicy wings I’ve ever eaten. Naturally when I saw chicken piké on the menu I had to go for it and try to recreate my first taste of Haiti.
The results? A resounding success. This chicken piké was everything I hoped it would be. It had the smoky sweetness that I expect from the Caribbean with a kick that lands squarely on the pleasure centers of the brain. The one-two combo of fall off the bone chicken and a commanding sauce had me KO’d from the start.
The chicken’s tag team partners mixed vegetables and sweet plantains kept the hits coming. Sautéed red peppers, onions, carrots, and broccoli had just the right amount of crunch to complement the perfectly tender chicken. Like all great fried plantains these were crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. More importantly both sides carried the piké’s spiciness just a little longer. Every bite of this meal was a pleasure.
How could this meal get any better? With surprise tickets to the Book of Mormon from Legs, of course! I’m too overcome by joy to even care if Legs beats me this round.
And the winner is… Snax!
✓Protein ✓Sauce ✓Sides/Veggies ✗Presentation
The streak is over! My succulent chicken and breathtaking sauce were just too much for Legs’ beef to overcome. In fact, she kept coming back to my plate for sauce throughout the meal! This win finally puts me on the board and gives me an opportunity to tie. I can only hope to put together a streak of my own.
Once this month is out someone will face punishment and every month thereafter. Stay tuned!
Legs: 3 – Snax: 1