Sisserou’s adds Caribbean cuisine to the ethnic offerings of the Brady Arts District.
The jerk chicken features half a chicken, marinated and grilled, served with spicy grilled corn, rice and beans.
In Oklahoma, August has a tendency to register somewhat tropical on the thermometer. However, we experience the tropics without the palm trees, ocean beaches and food stands selling coconut drinks and conch fritters.
So, second to booking a flight, packing your bags and sunscreen, and traveling hours southeast to, let’s say, the small island nation of Dominica, the easiest way to enjoy delicious Caribbean cuisine is to hop in your car and drive downtown to the Brady Arts District.
Eben Shillingford, whose family hails from Dominica, planted his Brady beach umbrella in early 2014 when he and his wife, Natalie, opened Sisserou’s at West Archer and North Main streets.
The restaurant pays homage to his home island’s cuisine, as well as other parts of the Caribbean. The namesake Sisserou is a beautiful (and now endangered) parrot, found only in Dominica’s mountainous rainforest, and the bird appears on the nation’s flag.
Chef Ben Alexander heads up the kitchen. You might recognize him from Wolfgang Puck Bistro, where he cooked before coming to Sisserou’s, but he is now putting his spin on Shillingford’s family recipes.
My parents and I enjoyed every dish we were served when we stopped in on a recent Friday evening, so it appears Alexander has hit his stride.
As soon as we were seated, our enchanting server, Gregory, shared a bit of background on the restaurant and hinted at a few menu highlights.
Seafood dishes at Sisserou’s are super fresh. Shillingford found a supplier in Key West who flies in fresh-caught mahi mahi, red snapper and other seafood daily. All of the fish served is roughly 24 hours from its last swim in the ocean.
We took our cues from Gregory and started with the popular coconut shrimp ($14). Six jumbo shrimp, coated with shredded coconut and deep-fried, are plump and tender, yet crisp, and pair well with the slightly sweet orange marmalade dipping sauce.
We also enjoyed the Accras, the Sisserou’s version of hush puppies ($11). Although deep fried, these fish cakes made from salted cod are light and airy, and are served with cool cucumber and dill sauce — a cross between ranch and tartar sauce.
We heavily considered the Plantain Poppers ($8), ripe plantains stuffed with guava, cheddar and hot sauce and then deep fried, but decided to save them for the next visit.
We fought over spoonfuls of my dad’s bowl of Callaloo ($7). The traditional Caribbean soup is made from spinach, okra, herbs, spices and coconut cream, pureed until smooth and served with a dollop of lump crabmeat and a Parmesan crisp. Next time I’m getting a bowl for myself.
The menu features an assortment of salads and sandwiches, the standout being a Cuban sandwich ($13). Alexander marinates pork shoulder in Mojo — the traditional marinade of Cuba that includes garlic, orange juice and oregano — before roasting it low and slow until tender.
After being shredded, the meat is stuffed into a toasted Cuban roll, drizzled with habañero mayo and topped with thinly sliced ham, Swiss cheese, sweet pickles and coarse Dijon mustard.
Mahi mahi and jerked chicken are two mainstays of any Caribbean menu, and both are represented well at Sisserou’s. Thick filets of mahi mahi ($22) are quickly pan seared and served over steamed rice and a delicate medley of shredded cabbage and thinly sliced onion flavored with a good dose of spice.
The jerk chicken ($15) takes a bit longer to come together. The marinade — made from allspice, Scotch bonnet peppers, a mixture of baking spices (cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg) and lots of thyme, garlic and green onions — sits for 24 hours before the chicken is added. Then, the chicken marinates another 24 hours. After a stint on the grill, the flavorful meat is served with rice and beans and delicious, grilled street corn coated with creamy mayo and cayenne pepper.
Other island-inspired offerings include stewed oxtail ($16), Caribbean curry with chicken or shrimp ($13; $17) and whole red snapper for two ($45), which is stuffed with crab, shrimp, breadcrumbs and lemon, baked and then carved tableside. The snapper takes 30 minutes, so call ahead to order it or be prepared to sip a few rum drinks while you wait.
The signature Banana Crepe Soufflé (crepes filled with a soufflé mixture, baked and served over flambéed bananas with a drizzle of chocolate rum sauce and a scoop of vanilla ice cream; $10) also takes awhile to cook, so be sure to order one when you decide on dinner.
Other desserts include chocolate lava cake ($10), coconut crème brûlée ($8), rum cake ($8) and an assortment of sorbets ($8).
The restaurant’s interior takes a cue from colorful island life, including the Sisserou parrot, with bright fixtures, painted walls and artwork. The tall ceilings and wall of factory windows in the old Ward Building hint at the restaurant’s past life as an industrial space.
For now, enjoy the building’s resurrection as a local ode to island life. Order a rum drink, snack on some delicious seafood and relax as Shillingford and company welcome you to their Caribbean getaway.
Sisserou’s: A Taste of the Caribbean
107 N. Boulder Ave. (enter through the parking lot on North Main and East Archer streets),
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Friday and Saturday