Get a taste of Caribbean food at Ivan's Gastro in North Miami Beach

Ivan's Gastro photos by Linda Bladholm for the Miami Herald.
Ivan's Gastro photos by Linda Bladholm for the Miami Herald.

Starchy tubers and plantains known as “provisions” in the Caribbean are made use of at Ivan’s Gastro in North Miami Beach, which is serving a mostly Carib menu with an Asian touch. 

Open about two months, the place has an industrial look with poured-concrete flooring, high ceilings and exposed pipes, but there’s a warm welcoming vibe with a bar where sake cocktails, beer and wine are available. For lunch there are sandwiches, burgers, pasta, and entrees such as ginger-garlic salmon, and chicken, shrimp or beef skewers over rice.

Chef Ivan Dorvil was born in Cap-Haitien, on the northern coast of Haiti. He was a baby when his family moved to Montreal, and then came to Miami when he was 11. He studied electrical engineering at Miami Dade College, but his passion was food so he went to Le Cordon Bleu in Montreal and Miramar. 

Dorvil worked at various restaurants, including Tap Tap, Mango’s and Oasis Cafe, as well as opening his own place, Nutmeg, all in Miami Beach. He also won an episode of Season 11 of Chopped and donated his prize money to help earthquake victims in Haiti.

A popular starter is mofongo: fried green plantains mashed in a mortar with garlic, olive oil and pork cracklings topped with shrimp. All tables get complimentary hummus seasoned with soy sauce with plantain chips. There’s also cone-shaped crab cakes with jalapeño crema; grilled jerk chicken wings (the chef makes his own jerk seasoning from allspice, nutmeg and hot peppers); and Haitian akra fritters made from grated malanga root served with watercress sauce.

Sandwiches include the boneless jerk chicken wrap with salad greens and spicy mayo, and the tuna melt on pita, good with a cup of roasted tomato soup. The turkey burger comes with mozzarella, tomato chutney and caramelized onions, and for vegetarians there’s a jalapeño black-bean burger. 

There is a sign above the bar that says “don’t hold back, suck oxtail bones,” referring to the best way to dislodge tender bits of braised meat from the tail bones pooled in juices from the slow and low cooking of meat, tomatoes, onions, carrots and garlic with a splash of red wine served with mashed potatoes. 

Haitian griot (fried pork chunks) or tasso (fried goat chunks) are island comfort foods served with black rice. Finish with boniato (mashed tropical sweet potato) a la mode drizzled in dark caramel sauce. 

Linda Bladholm is a Miami-based food writer.