As first-time restaurateurs, but with plenty of hospitality-related experience, Ria and Kevol (Kev) Graham were not entirely comfortable opening their first restaurant in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg, where several upscale restaurants and 5-star hotel dining is just a block away. And to make matters worse, they opened in July 2020, when New York City was in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But Ria, Brooklyn bred with roots in Trinidad and Grenada, and Kev, raised in the Bronx but born in Jamaica, did not hesitate to begin work on their unique design and menu offerings. Immediately, they chose the restaurant’s name from the fictional island getaway referenced in a 1988 Beach Boys song called “Kokomo,” and it became their vision to create a dining experience transporting guests to the islands of the Caribbean through food, music and cocktails.
Although the Beach Boys’ paradise was California, Brooklyn’s Kokomo Caribbean Restaurant quickly became a trendy Caribbean-inspired getaway, with Caribbean musicians outside (in warm weather) and taped island tunes indoors, among an eclectic variety of artwork on the walls and ceilings. The restaurant’s location, on a quiet corner of Kent Avenue, may not be surrounded by palm trees, but a two-minute walk away is Marsha P. Johnson State Park (aka East River State Park), where sandy Charlotte Beach offers stunning views of Manhattan across the river.
Designed by interior designer Dara Young, founder, Aviva Collective, the two-level restaurant interior includes unique dining zones inspired by various Caribbean island cultures. There is an illuminated, bamboo-based bar with hand-made bar stools, as well as various sculptural artwork created by community artists.
Before dinner, try one of Kokomo’s many famous cocktails. The Rude Gyrl contains Bank’s 5 rum, Rocky’s clarified milk punch, honey, homemade blackberries and St Germain granita with lemon juice. The We Limin’ includes Grey Goose Vodka, St. Germain, simple syrup, lime juice and guava juice.
The menu offers Caribbean cuisine combined with intriguing spices and ingredients from other destinations, as well. Although there is no Michelin star yet, the Michelin guide to the area’s restaurants commented Kokomo is “cooking that spans the Caribbean and the kitchen team infuses it with unique twists. Yard-long flatbreads, like the rasta pasta, are a favorite thanks to the presence of shrimp, Jamaican callaloo, and plantain. Other hits include the vegetarian whole-roasted cauliflower in cashew sauce seasoned with allspice, fish tacos and braised oxtail stew.”
Other wonderful menu items include lentil meatballs in coconut curry sauce; jerk chicken; the calypso burger; and a Jamaican Escovitch-style fried red snapper with tamarind sauce, served with rice, peas and seasonal vegetables, big enough for two. Popular brunch items hard to resist are Haitian Pikliz fish sandwiches, Koko’s chicken and waffles and the sweet plantain pancakes.
For dessert, the Kokolada pineapple rum cake and the passionfruit peach cobbler, a warm mix of passionfruit and peach mixed with soursop ice cream, transports the entire table to the Caribbean. Kokomo is open every day except Monday.
Before leaving the area, check out a tiny storefront called OxKale, just around the corner. The owners of Kokomo created this modern little shop to offer a new, simple and authentic Caribbean take-out store selling salads, bowls and gyrotis (gyro+roti), so customers can build their own Caribbean-style cuisine in endless combinations, perfect for take-home meals or for picnicking at one of the nearby parks.
After a stressful pre-holiday season and a busy work schedule, there was no better time for a relaxing spa experience than during my recent trip to Pasadena with the FXExpress Publications, Inc. team. We headed to The Langham Huntington, Pasadena for the 20th anniversary of the GT Tested Reader Survey awards, which meant a jam-packed trip, but I managed to carve a little time out of our busy schedule to visit Chuan Spa at the hotel.
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It’s time to start dreaming of your next trip. Here’s some destination inspiration for you. Take a visual journey through Muscat, Oman, with us.