La Colombo

(St. Francois)

 

Date of Review: May 1998

Reviewer: Zebulon

 

On our first full day, we spent the midday exploring the Pointe des Chateaux, planning to have lunch somewhere on our way way back to St. Francois. We had passed quite a few restaurants on our way to the Pointe. Only one was on the water side, however. We stopped at the waterside restaurant, to learn that it was only open for dinner during the off-season. We later learned that it had a reputation for the best grilled lobster on the island. If its lobster is any better than La Colombo, then a spiny shrine ought to be erected in front of that restaurant.

We ended up at La Colombo, fairly close to St. Francois (and next door to the Iguane Cafe). The Colombo is open air with a rustic wooden decor. There is a dining area in the front and picnic benches in an open area by the side. The decor is merely fair, with large wooden tables, faded rubber placemats, and a disillusioned hanging plant or two. There is no wine list to speak of.

A young man, about high school age, appeared less than thrilled that a table for six arrived near the end of the lunch hour. The menu had the customary Guadeloupean selections. We noticed that a table next to us was eating lobster two different ways, and it looked very good. The man had a large lobster which had been butterflied and grilled; the woman had lobster cut in ringlets in a light spiced tomato sauce served with rice. The former was "lobster grillee", the latter was "lobster fricasee". Fricasee is evidently closer to cuban "lobster enchilado" (not to be confused with mexican enchiladas) than it is to classical French "fricasee".

Our table ordered three lobsters fricasee, one shrimp fricasee, conch fricasee and goat curry. For an appetiser, we ordered a mixed platter which had boudin, crab farci, tomato, and cucumber. Along with the appetiser, we were served bread with three small bowlsof sauces; a homemade mayonnaise, a garlic/onion/spice blend in olive oil, and something really really hot. I believe the hot sauce was made from scotch bonnet peppers.

Our meal arrived. Either the waiter or the kitchen had confused the order, as all the "fricasees" came out as "grillees". We also discovered that the word we had translated as "shrimp" actually meant prawns. So, instead of shrimp fricasee, Denae received three large grilled prawns, heads on. She was elected Prawn Queen on the spot.

Back to the lobster. We decided to bless the kitchen for serving us lobster grillee by mistake. The lobsters were huge, the three overflowing the large serving platter. They had been grilled perfectly. To often is it easy to undercook or slightly overcook grilled lobster. Not at the Colombo. The lobster tail fell out of its shell, and had a wonderful flavor due to the wood grill. No one at the table, the chef (Doug) included, could ever recall having eaten better lobster. Doug went back to thank the grillmaster (who cooked over an open wood-burning pit by the lobster tank) after the lunch.

A discovery was then made that the hot sauce had a wonderful flavor despite its heat. Too often hot sauces are not flavorful; merely hot. Cutting the hot sauce with a little of the homemade mayonnaise toned down the heat and let the flavor show through. The mixture became the dipping sauce of choice for the grilled lobster.

The conch was very good. The prawns were ok. The goat curry was about as good as goat curry gets, which isn't very good. Several of the dishes were served with a side a a rice and brown bean mixure (very similar to Bahamian "peas and rice") which was also good. Clearly the strength of La Colombo was its grilled lobster. It also offered grilled chicken for any non-seafood non-goat eaters in the group.

I recommend La Colombo for a casual meal of grilled lobster and washing it down with a beer or two. The lobster is not inexpensive, about $30 (including tax and tip), but well worth it as the lobsters are very large and prepared simply but excellently.