Diaspora

New Hartford restaurant La Flor is a ‘mix kitchen’ with food from Peru and Haiti – Hartford Courant

The Caribbean islands are well-represented in the Hartford-area food scene. Jamaica and Puerto Rico lead the pack. There are also Dominican, Colombian and Cuban restaurants. Haitian food is harder to find, until now.
La Flor Mix Kitchen and Bar, which just soft-opened at 360 Franklin Ave., has a full menu of Haitian offerings made by Drina Vaval, who grew up in a restaurant-owning family in Port de Paix, Haiti.
Vaval lives in Waltham, Massachusetts, and once worked at Boston Haitian restaurant La Perle. She recently took over the restaurant that used to be at 360 Franklin Ave. Her menu is half Haitian, half Peruvian.
“After years of being here and part of the community, it switched ownership to me. I didn’t want to take the Peruvian restaurant away from the neighborhood. So I kept all the Peruvian food and added Haitian food to the menu,” Vaval said. “That’s what I mean by mix kitchen. It’s a fusion of both cultures.”
Her Peruvian chef is Nestor Vasquez, who has worked at Hartford-area Peruvian restaurants Piolin, Cora Cora and Rockin Chicken. Vasquez makes the specialties of his country. Vavel makes the specialties of hers.
Hers include fried pork griot, tasso beef, steamed salmon, whole red snapper and fried goat. One of the most important items on the menu is pikliz, a slaw made from bell pepper, cabbage, tomato, onions, carrots and lemon juice, generously flavored with Haitian spices.
“Haitians want everything to be spicy, so if what they are eating isn’t spicy, we have pikliz on the side to make it spicy,” Vaval said.
Haitian-style plantains also are an important menu item. The plantains are cooked, smashed into a pancake-like patty and then cooked again.
Vazquez’s dishes include ceviche, grilled chicken, fried rice with shrimp, Peruvian-flavored spaghetti, lomo saltado, skewered beef hearts, mussels topped with salsa, papas rellenas and many other items.
One showy item Vazquez makes is leche de tigre, a dish of fish, onion, corn, cilantro, milk, lemon and shrimp, served in a dessert glass.
Currently the bar at La Flor Mix Kitchen and Bar is not open. Until the liquor license is obtained, the restaurant is BYOB. When the restaurant grand-opens at an undermined date, it will be open earlier for breakfast, with Creole sandwiches, breakfast spaghetti and other traditional morning foods.
Until then, the restaurant is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekends.
Susan Dunne can be reached at sdunne@courant.com.

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