The Vegetarian Option: Kombit
Kombit on Flatbush Avenue bills itself as a "Bar & Restaurant," so you can expect items like mozzarella sticks and Buffalo wings on the menu. But most of the non-bar food is Haitian, and it is very good. Take the akra ($6.95), pictured above; they may resemble average bar chicken tenders, but are completely vegetarian—and more interesting than most fried snacks.
Akra are yucca fritters: deep fried until crisp and crunchy on the outside, yet miraculously grease-free. The (admittedly visually unappealing) gray interior is chewy and light. The fritters are served with a relish of spicy minced pickled vegetables swimming in vinegar. The acidity and heat from the relish is the perfect foil for the fritters, and made this one of the best dishes I've enjoyed in a long time.
The one vegetarian entrée on the menu is the vegetarian legume ($10.95), a hearty vegetable stew with a rich tomato base. It tasted under-seasoned at first, but the more I ate the more I realized how well the flavors balanced each other. Vegetables in the stew ranged from familiar— soft carrots, beans, and cabbage—to the more exotic. Sweet chunks of chayote replaced the expected potato. The stew was served with rice and plantains; for best results mix the rice into the stew. My server had thoughtfully left the remaining vinegar sauce at my table, which was perfect for the plantains.
At this point my server asked me why I was photographing all of the food. When I explained that I write about vegetarian food, she told me that Kombit sometimes offers an okra and tomato dish ($10.95). She went back to the kitchen and asked the chef to make some for me. The dish is simple but very well prepared. Okra arrived perfectly cooked, neither crunchy nor slimy (though to be honest, I like my okra slimy). The tomato sauce here was thinner than the vegetarian stew, and with a stronger salty kick.
If you had asked me about Haitian food before my visit to Kombit, I would have told you it was all about seafood. Kombit does have a lot of seafood on the menu, but the vegetarian options managed to both satisfy and surprise me. There seems to be a dearth of Haitian restaurants in New York; hopefully places like Kombit will help turn that around.
Disclosure: the okra and tomato dish was offered as a comped sample, but I insisted on paying for it.
Kombit279 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11217 (map)
About the author: Howard Walfish is a Virginia native who has been living in New York since 2003. He is, in fact, a vegetarian, and is the co-founder of Eat to Blog and the creator of Brooklyn Vegetarian.