Our restaurant critic checks out Port-au-Prince Authentic Haitian Cuisine in Silver Spring
Massillon’s no longer a strict Adventist though, so his eatery does serve alcohol, which means you can, and should, start a meal with one of the cocktails. Make sure to try those made with Barbancourt rum, a Haitian specialty (see box on page 282). Also worth imbibing are the Tet Fret (white rum, coconut rum, ginger syrup, coconut water), a refreshing alternative to a piña colada; and the Bazilik Potoprens (gin, basil syrup, lemon juice, sparkling wine).
In addition to akra fritters and marinad (ask for extra pikliz because PAP is a little stingy with the serving size), begin a meal here with chicken wings, braised until tender, then deep-fried, dressed with a lime juice and garlic-spiked vinaigrette and topped with onions. Lime supplies the acid, and the onions offer sweetness, adding up to a satisfying starter. Plantain cups topped with a mixture of flaked salt cod and sautéed red peppers and onions are on the stodgy side. Double-fried plantain patties, similar to tostones, are crispy and tasty, but they come with most of the entrées, so there’s no need to order them as an appetizer.
Among the entrées are bone-in chunks of fried goat or fried turkey, both marinated in hot pepper sauce and then braised with onions and garlic before being deep-fried. Turkey is tender on one occasion, but dry on another. Goat is tender and has a deeper, more pronounced flavor than turkey. A must-have is sautéed whole red snapper with onions and red peppers, its flesh moist and lightly perfumed with a marinade of vinegar, lime juice and thyme.
The vegetarian entrée at PAP is a casserole similar to ratatouille and made with eggplant, bell peppers, celery and onions. It’s filling, especially with sides of coconut-scented rice and black bean purée. I’d happily make a meal of the sides, saving room for a smashing nutmeg-scented pound cake that’s soaked with Barbancourt rum.
Every other Saturday night the restaurant offers entertainment. I was fortunate to hear the Cuerpa y Alma flamenco band and marvel at the flamenco dancer. There is no cover charge but make reservations early—the place is packed. Also packed is Sunday brunch where crowds line up at a buffet for oxtail stew and hearty soup made from joumou, a Haitian gourd similar to pumpkin.
If you haven’t tried Haitian food, consider PAP your Silver Spring gateway.
David Hagedorn is the restaurant critic for Bethesda Magazine.