Seasoned Dreams Founder Opens Pan-Caribbean Restaurant in Saint-Henri, Montreal

Chef Jae-Anthony Dougan, founder of the Caribbean restaurant Côte-Saint-Paul Seasoned Dreams and a hopeful of this year Best Chef in Canada cooking competition, opened the doors of a new restaurant – and one day a rum cocktail bar – over the weekend. The newcomer from Saint-Henri, called Tropikàl, highlights the variety, but also the many common points, through pan-Caribbean culinary traditions, with an extensive take-out menu from island to island.

“A lot of people don’t understand how big the Caribbean is, but we’re so divided because of slavery,” says Dougan. “If you go to a Haitian restaurant, you will see that it is very similar to Jamaican cuisine, but it can be cooked in a different way with a different technique. If you look at the curries from Trinidad and Guyana and Barbados, you will see that they are also very similar.

On the menu, typical Trinidadian street food doubles (two pieces of fried flat dough filled with curried chickpeas) appear alongside Dougan’s famous spicy smoked pepper and jerk chicken, served with Haitian rice, and the restaurant’s Tropikàl vegan bowl, containing callaloo (a Jamaican stew of leafy vegetables), chana of chickpeas, plantains and other vegetables. The dish “brings together different parts of the Caribbean in one bowl,” the menu says, and serves as a sort of metonym for Dougan’s overall approach, where flavors of everything from Afro-Latino Panamanian cuisine to those of the Guyanese cuisine with Indian accents, and the culinary imprints left during each of the island’s colonized pasts, are intertwined.

Tropikàl / Supplied

Perhaps even more than a message of culinary continuity, Dougan intends to recast the perception of Caribbean cuisine in Montreal as capable of occupying a place at tables other than those of the city’s beloved mom-and-pop boutiques. . He cites as an exception to this rule the Village restaurant, now closed, Agrikol, known for, among other things, its lively nightlife. Dougan says Tropikàl’s location, tucked away in the row of restaurants on Notre-Dame Street West, counting heavyweights like Foiegwa, Joe Beef, Arthurs and others as neighbors, was strategically chosen to overcome these preconceptions. .

“We wanted to show that we deserve to be in the number one restaurant street in Montreal, and I wanted to show my talent among them,” said Dougan, adding that he hopes the restaurant’s geographic placement next to some of the The city’s most sought-after restaurants -after the tables will help it earn a place among the Top 100 in Canada. “But as a black leader, it’s really difficult. I don’t think people realize how prevalent systemic racism is as a leader in this industry. I think being in Saint-Henri will help me prove myself.

Before Tropikàl, the West Island native of Montreal ran the popular Tingz in Ottawa, where he says black chefs are more warmly received than in Montreal. He believes that Quebec’s charter of the French language, Bill 101, has played a role in stifling non-French Caribbean culture and cuisine in the city. “Apart from Paul Toussaint [formerly the chef of aforementioned Agrikol, now the chef-owner of Kamúy] it’s never a black face in Montreal. It’s time for a change, ”said Dougan, noting that with his partners in the business, Jamaal Gittens and Kevin Selman, Tropikàl’s ownership is completely black.

In Montreal, Dougan is perhaps best known as the creator (but no longer the owner) of the Côte-Saint-Paul star Seasoned Dreams, where he says he designed the jerk chicken poutine, now a staple at other restaurants. from the city. The business started in 2015 as a restoration project in his parents’ garage. Dougan then opened his first brick and mortar store on Anger Street, sleeping on a sofa in the basement, after managing to secure a loan of $ 98,000 to install good ventilation upstairs. “I started from scratch,” he says.

As for where are he and Tropikàl going? For now, the pandemic dictates that the restaurant remains a take-out and delivery operation, and the menu reflects those constraints, with a selection of traditional dishes that are easy to carry along with some of the creative take on North American favorites ( like mac and cheese and poutine) for which Dougan has become well known. In the coming months, Dougan says diners can expect a “very crazy” summer menu, the metamorphosis of Tropikàl into a lively rum cocktail bar on weekends and the arrival of an upcoming sister location in Ottawa as well.

Tropikàl is now open for take-out and delivery at 3426 Notre-Dame Ouest.

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Michael M. Tomlin

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