Griot, mofongo and conch: This hidden Wynwood restaurant nails Miami’s Caribbean flavors

A report by Carlos Frías for The Miami Herald.

Manjay is perfectly Miami.

By that I mean it’s not just one thing: Not Haitian, not Jamaican, not Cuban, not Puerto Rican. Rather, it’s the mix of the Caribbean flavors that made it a hit, originally at The Citadel food hall in Little River, and, now, in a second, standalone spot in Wynwood.

And Wynwood, too, is not just one thing — art galleries and graffiti, locals and tourists, flat hats and fedoras — and that makes it a welcoming gateway to a pan-Caribbean restaurant like Manjay.

That level of cross-cultural fusion could be a mess, or worse, a pandering fiasco if not for Haitian-born husband and wife, Christian and Sabrina Dominique, who clearly understand these flavors and how to use them.

That means at Wynwood’s Manjay you’ll find coconut and curry, jerk and cumin seasonings. And you’ll find them used in fried pork and chicken but also in vegan preparations of curried vegetables. That’s very Wynwood.

We know how tough it is to move to a new city. Sign up for our Magic City Survival Guide for 10 simple steps to life in Miami. We have what you need, whether you’re new or want to fall in love with the city again. Email Address How Miami are you? Newbie Long-time local Manjay doesn’t attempt to be fine-dining — it’s mostly bowls, served informally but beautifully. And with breezy, covered paseo seating, colorful murals, quick service, and an Instagrammable neon wall reading bon bagay (roughly “all good,” in Haitian), Manjay is a tasty ambassador for many sides of Miami culture.

Here are some of the best dishes we tried:

MOFONGO AND CONCH FRITTERS

Puerto Rican mofongo is a garlicky mash of sweet plantains, usually with a healthy dose of pork chunks and pork fat. But at Manjay, the Mofongo My Way dish is transformed using semi-sweet plantains and rolled into balls that are deep fried. Make sure to dip them into a tomato sazón and have each bit with a pop of Haitian-style pikliz, pickled slaw that’s brings the heat but also a tart vinegar that punches through the richness.

An even better move might be the conch fritters made with mammoth chunks of conch, cooked tender, but with just a bit of the chewiness that makes conch interesting. A mustard remoulade and more pikliz are required.

BOWLS

Bowls definitely fit Wynwood’s aesthetic. And Manjay uses them to deliver distinct Miami flavors.

Haitian griot (sometimes spelled griyot or griyo) are massive fried pork chunks, a dish that’s delicious but often heavy. But Manjay makes them one-bite friendly, alongside red beans and rice, and topped with micro greens — because Wynwood. They’re served with poker-chip thin banan payzay you’ll find yourself using to scoop the pork chunks and rice.

Those excellent banan — identical to tostones as they’re called in Cuba — appear again in the jerk chicken bowl, where the meat is not just spiced but also candied. Served with pikliz, there’s salt, fat, acid, heat: all the makings of a satisfying dish.

Each bite is a reminder of the Caribbean flavors that combine throughout Miami in an honest way.

MANJAY WYNWOOD

Address: 2618 NW 5 Ave., Wynwood

Hours: Noon-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; until 1 a.m., Friday and Saturday

More info: Manjayrestaurant.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s