Review of Tap Tap Restaurant--Authentic Haitian food

Thursday, June 03, 2010

In the heart of South Beach,  is a popular restaurant, TAP TAP, which offers authentic Haitain food.  Housed in a non-conspicuous building that you can miss in the blink of the eye, the fanfare decor is all inside.

On the north side of 5th street, (right next to Shell gas station), is the porch entrance and painted mural on one wall. As you walk up the steps, you soon discover every inch of wall, tables and chairs are hand painted by Haitian artists 15 years ago when they fled Haiti. Exuberant, colorful, portly figures and landscape were painted in every room of the restaurant.  It's a humble, happy place.

Appetizer: Pumpkin Soup ($6.00)
The texture was more similar to a chicken soup, stocked with cabbage, yuca, malanga (another root vegetable like the potato) and noodles. There was slight taste of pumpkin with a hint of a spice perhaps clove.  But no dairy or cream is used to make this soup. Definitely different and tasty, hearty and healthy!

We also ordered a medley of appetizers (see photo below) which included the fried slices of sweet potatoe, fried green plantain (which is called tostones in some Spanish-speaking countries), malanga fritters, and goat tidbits. The dipping sauces include a sweet watercress sauce, a spicy cabbage mix (very spicy), and a red creole sauce (non spicy). All were tasty. My  favorite combination was a tie between the fried green plantain dipped in the watercress sauce and the bits of goat meat dipped in creole sauce. Price: $8.00

Malanga is a vegetable root similar to the potato. Here the malanga is cooked, mashed and fried with some cornmeal that it indeed took on that fritter look and taste. Eat it plain or dip it into sauce.

Goat cheese is my weakness but I had never tried goat meat. Tasty, a little tough but I enjoyed every morsel.

For the main course I chose the shrimp in a red creole and coconut sauce accompanied by a soupy cornmeal with beans, which the waitress called a polenta stew for an accurate description. While not packed with flavors or spices, the side dish alone would suffice for a small meal with its rich, thick body of cornmeal and red beans.  Authentic, homemade dishes are not always about powerhouse flavor--but texture, and blend of ingredients that were most likely the only ingredients available in a small town or village.

The red, coconut sauce that engulfed the shrimp was a perfect marriage packed with incredible flavors. After eating the five shrimps, I grabbed the remaining appetizer pieces and dipped them in the creole/coconut sauce. 

The restaurant is fifteen years old and popular with locals.  If you're adventurous and love to try new authentic, ethnic dishes, Tap Tap is a must.

Best time to go? Lunch time is almost empty. I took some clients and there was only one other couple inside. But at night, it's a popular restaurant for locals and it gets pretty crowded.

What does Tap Tap mean? It means a local bus, just like "gua gua" (pronounced wa wa) means bus in Puerto Rico. Below is a picture of their artistically painted jitney.


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