Caribbean cuisine comes alive with flavor at Blue Hole in Gardena – Daily Breeze

Many years ago, following the advice of Travis McGee (in a series of books by mystery writer John D. MacDonald), I chose to take early retirement when I was still young enough to take advantage of it. . I quit the alternative newspaper I was helping edit at the time, packed a gym bag, and traveled to Mexico and Central America for six months, intending to travel by bus, to train and inch.

Eventually I found myself in the jungle of Guatemala in the dazzling Mayan ruins called Tikal. And since I was only a few hours from Belize, a little-known Caribbean country, it became my next stop.

There was a lot of culture shock going there. After months of getting by with my Spanish in high school, I was in a country where Caribbean English was spoken; Belize was more like a province of Jamaica. And since my main culinary memory was eating lots of Jamaican jerk chicken, washed down with lots of Belikin beer and Caribbean Gold rum, I wasn’t even sure there was a distinct local Belizean cuisine.

Of course there was. And here. It can be found in a nice restaurant that is in its own independent building, called The Blue hole.

The name should probably be explained – although for all the divers reading this, it is in awe. It is a giant sea sinkhole, 43 miles off the coast of Belize, made famous by Jacques Cousteau, who named it one of the top five scuba diving sites in the world. It is an almost perfect circle, over a thousand feet in diameter and 400 feet deep. And it’s blue, so incredibly blue, a dark blue that stands out against the turquoise water of the Caribbean. There are pictures of the hole all over the restaurant. They take your breath away.

But they don’t rob you of your appetite. For me, it was a menu of Proustian dishes that reminded me of my days spent in a Belize City guesthouse (in an attic room with no ventilation!), And eating in the city’s many markets. (A city so little visited by tourists at the time, I couldn’t even find a map!)

What you’ll find at the Blue Hole are breadcrumbs, a variation of empanadas, but in this case filled with spicy fish or beans. As Belize is almost the entire coastline, fish are pretty much everywhere. Fish and of course chicken. And the same goes for an onion sauce, which accompanies panades, and nachos called garnaches, and taco-equivalent salbutes.

If you want to taste almost any appetizer, as well as the chicken tostadas, get the sample plate. Which is pretty much a full meal, especially if you add Belizean chicken wings. Get them with the mango habanero, which is both calming and sizzling.

  • Seafood is the main draw at the Blue Hole in Gardena, but there are many other wonderful options that should appeal to the non-seafood eaters in your party. (Photo by Merrill Shindler)

  • The chicken is spicy and comes in many different ways, including this one, at Gardena’s Blue Hole. (Photo by Merrill Shindler)

  • A photo of the namesake Great Blue Hole, a giant sea sinkhole off the coast of Belize, is displayed at The Blue Hole restaurant in Gardena. (Photo by Merrill Shindler)

There is a breakfast dishes page – odd for a restaurant that only opens at lunchtime. But then it includes dishes like Chicken Curry and Chicken with Spices in Brown Gravy, and Beef and Oxtail Stew. And best of all, the fish. Whole fried tilapia or red snapper. And salted white fish “chopped” with onions and tomatoes in coconut oil. Not a dish found at IHOP. Or outside of Belize, for that matter – except here.

As for the starters, they follow the breakfast dishes – which aren’t traditionally breakfast dishes – the Chicken and Chicken Curry Stew and the Beef and Oxtail Stew. There are pigtails too – nothing is wasted in Belize. But there’s also my favorite Jamaican chicken, the jerk chicken – so spicy and intense and tender and wonderful. An edible journey to a distant land.

And of course, seafood, so much seafood – whole fried fish, cooked tilapia, curried shrimp and more. There’s an Orange Walk taco, notable for its ruthless hot sauce – in Belize they know how to make you sweat!

And there are also cheeseburgers and fries, and cheeseburgers and bacon fries. I imagine. But I prefer digging into homemade breads – powder buns, Creole bread, Creole bun. And local desserts, like coconut pies and milk cake. They make their own ice cream. Fortunately, not with fish.

Merrill Shindler is an independent Los Angeles-based food critic. Send an email to [email protected]

The blue hole

  • Evaluation: 3 stars
  • Address: 14008 Crenshaw Blvd, Gardena
  • Information: 424-396-3228;
  • Food: Belizean / Caribbean
  • When: Lunch and early dinner, every day
  • Details: Soft drink; reservations are not necessary
  • Atmosphere: Independent restaurant, pretty and comfortable, with ample parking, lots of photos of beautiful Belize, smiling staff and a great taste of the Caribbean – and one of the lesser-known nations of the Caribbean.
  • Prices: About $ 15 per person
  • Suggested dishes: 8 breakfast plates ($ 11.98 – $ 24.99), entrees ($ 7.49 – $ 13.49), 19 entrees ($ 12.99 – $ 22.99), 5 “extras” Blue Hole ($ 5.99 – $ 13.99), 5 desserts ($ 1.90 – $ 4.99), 3 homemade breads ($ 2.99) – $ 5.99
  • Credit card: MC, V
  • What do the stars mean: 4 (World class! Worth a visit from anywhere!), 3 (Very excellent, if not exceptional. Worth a visit from anywhere in Southern California.), 2 (A great place to go for a meal. Worth a visit from anywhere in the neighborhood.) 1 (If you’re hungry and it’s nearby, but don’t get stuck in traffic.) 0 (Honestly, not worth it. speak.)

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Michael M. Tomlin

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