CocoBreeze, a new Trinidadian restaurant in Oakland, opened its doors, offering a whole lineup of traditional dishes from its owner’s native Trinidad and Tobago
A proper Trinidadian roti wrap is one of the world’s great street foods: a split pea flatbread full of soft-cooked potato curry and, perhaps, chunks of goat meat or chicken and a dash of hot pepper sauce — everything folded into a fat, hand-held bundle that will keep even the heartiest appetite satisfied for the better part of the day.
It’s a dish you would have had a hard time tracking down in the Bay Area up until a little over a month ago, the savory split-pea fritters known as pholourie; chicken or goat served over pelau, the classic Trinidadian rice dish; and yes, roti with a choice of several different fillings.
CocoBreeze marks something of a comeback for its chef, Annabelle Goodridge — aka Chef Ann — who ran a Trinidadian restaurant called LaBelle’s in Berkeley, on Adeline Street, during the late ‘90s and early 2000s. Mostly, though, Goodridge has done catering for most of her life, going back to the early ‘70s when, as a 12-year-old girl, she would help out with her mother’s catering business in Trinidad and Tobago. Her most recent company, Makin Style Catering, catered events for big clients like Kaiser, Genentech, and UC Berkeley.The new restaurant is a collaboration between Goodridge and her daughter, Merissa Lyons, who runs a vegan bakery and juice bar called Enchanted Eats out of the same space in East Oakland.
The key to Trinidadian cooking, Goodridge says, is its use of fresh herbs. She cites the huge amount of green onions, parsley, and onions that she blends into a marinade, slathering over her Trinidadian version of jerk chicken, which she describes as being fresher and more palatable — not as intensely spicy — as the versions served at other Caribbean restaurants. Her roti wraps, meanwhile, come with smoky, peppery anchar, the traditional green mango condiment, on the side.