August 1, 2008

Restaurant review: Kabasa?

Kabasa? restaurant, La Ceiba, HondurasKabasa? restaurant, La Ceiba, Honduras

Kabasa? is a Garífuna seafood restaurant. According to a Garífuna friend, 'Kabasa' means something like "What's up?" or "What's happening?", hence the question mark at the end. I'll leave the question mark off in this review. By the way, when pronouncing it, the accent is on the last 'a'.

Kabasa now has three locations, San Pedro Sula, to which I've never been; Sambo Creek, nice atmosphere on the beach and breezy; and La Ceiba, which we recently tried for the first time.

Kabasa, La Champa, Sambo Creek, HondurasI've been to Kabasa in Sambo Creek, on the beach about 30 minutes outside of La Ceiba several times. It's also known as La Champa, 'champa' being the local Spanish word for the palm-frond roof. The food is good and plentiful, though at the Sambo Creek location, a lunch or dinner in an almost empty restaurant has taken two hours or more. The service is nice enough, though slow.

The La Ceiba restaurant had moved recently but with only a bit of trouble, we were able to find it in Barrio La Isla. If you are going north toward the ocean on the stadium road (by the estero), turn right on the second street after the stadium (God only knows what the name of any of these streets are). Go straight about two blocks. You should see the restaurant sign on the corner on the left hand side. See the photo at top.

Kabasa restaurant, La Ceiba, HondurasThe entrance is very nice. They have a nicely landscaped outdoor area with umbrella covered concrete tables and benches. In the center is a very large covered patio area with lots of seating. An outdoor bar is in this area as well.

Kabasa restaurant, La Ceiba, HondurasThe inside area is air conditioned (but thankfully not too cold). It's quite large and includes another bar area. Tables and chairs in the patio area as well as inside are wooden, which is a nice change from the plastic chairs and tables in so many restaurants. One wall is covered with this beautiful under-sea mural and various forms of artistic painting brighten the interior. It looks like they would have no trouble handling large groups for dining either inside or outside.

Roberto was our waiter and he was pleasant and efficient. I was disappointed (for blogging purposes) that four of the six in our group ordered the Sopa Marinera, which is one the Kabasa's specialties. I can't blame them really, it is delicious. I was just hoping to get photos of more items from the menu.

Kabasa serves all the usual soft drinks (L.15), beers (L.20-35), and mixed drinks, as well as tall, icy glasses of naturales: lemonadas and other fresh juices (L.20-30). Some of us had the lemonade which was nice (not too sweet − always a risk here) and others had jugo de toronja (grapefruit juice). One person ordered a second grapefruit juice, so it must have been good.

Kabasa restaurant, La Ceiba, HondurasThe menu is extensive, but often not everything is available. Every time I've been to Kabasa, the small and medium pescados (fish) have not been available, only the large or extra large. Sometimes they have crab legs and sometimes not. The fish (L.110-200), shrimp (L.174-204), conch (L.139-180), and lobster (L.500-600) can be prepared several different ways. (Divide by 20 to get a rough approximation of the prices in US dollars.)

The menu includes several combination seafood platters for 2, 4, or 6 people (L.600 to 1,700). If you are not a seafood fan, Kabasa offers grilled meat platters including chicken, beef, chuletas (chops) of both beef and pork for 2, 4, or 6 persons at L.400 to L.1,000. Individual meals of beef, pork, or chicken, meal-sized salads, and a children's menu are also available.

The prices are typical for a nice restaurant in La Ceiba.
In US dollars, most main courses prices range from $8 to $10, with lobster and a few other specialties running upward of US $25. Menu prices do not include 12% sales tax (15% on alcoholic beverages) or 10% gratuity which will be added to your check.

Fried fish, Kabasa restaurant, La Ceiba, HondurasLa Madre had pescado empanizado (fried, breaded fish) and I had caracol in mantequilla (conch in a lightly garlic flavored cream sauce). Both came with an iceberg lettuce and tomato salad, yellow rice with veggies, and french fries. We both requested a substitution to tajadas (sliced, fried unripe plantains) instead of the fries and received a look of approval from the waiter.

Conch is garlic cream sauce, Kabasa restaurant, La Ceiba, HondurasMy caracol was rich and tasty in the cream sauce, and most importantly, very tender. The sauce was not overly garlicky which sometimes is a risk. Everything was good. Even the salad dressing (no choice − only the ketchup/mayo mixture was available) was not watered down to a liquid form as it is in so many restaurants.

Marinera soup, Kabasa restaurant, La Ceiba, HondurasThe sopa marinera (seafood soup) is one of their most popular of several soups (L.129-240). It's called the "I can't decide" soup because it includes shrimp, lobster, fish, mussels, calamari, crab meat, and possibly more. I would estimate that there was close to a pound of seafood in the soup. The coconut broth was the best and richest that I have tasted − and I've tasted a lot. It was a tad too salty, but oh so flavorful. Soups are served with a side of white rice, tajadas, and a lemon wedge. It is customary is that the person squeezes a little lemon in the soup and adds the rice to their taste as they eat the soup.

Kabasa restaurant, La Ceiba, HondurasWe had one little glitch. My caracol in mantequilla somehow turned into an order of fried shrimp when it arrived. Roberto remembered my caracol order as soon as I mentioned it and went back to the kitchen. I was hoping that he had just picked up the wrong plate and it was still sitting in the kitchen but no such luck. So once again, I (the reviewer!) sat for 15 minutes or so while everyone else ate, while they prepared the dish. I couldn't tell you how many times this has happened to me. Oh, well. I would have eaten the shrimp rather than waiting but I didn't think to tell that to Roberto soon enough. The important point is that there was no arguments about who was mistaken.

For dessert, the menu offers traditional coco candies, as well as a dessert of the day (supposedly). We didn't ask what was available as the main course portions are huge and very filling. In fact, if you eat lunch there, you might not need to eat dinner later on. The menu and prices are the same for lunch or dinner, as is true with all of the La Ceiba restaurants that I've been to.

Kabasa is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays) at the San Pedro and La Ceiba locations. The Sambo Creek restaurant opens at 10 a.m. and closes at 8 p.m (9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays). All three are closed on Sundays. Their menu warns that all items are prepared fresh and to allow a minimum of 30 minutes preparation time.

Everyone enjoyed the food and the La Ceiba restaurant very much. We were in and out in little over an hour even though the restaurant had quite a few customers. It was a good choice and we will be going back. I appreciate the effort the owners put into the landscaping and decor. It has a nice atmosphere and judging by the crowd at lunch, I imagine that it must get a good crowd on Friday and Saturday nights.

We've also had good food several times at the Sambo Creek location. We've taken friends and they have enjoyed the short ride through the country to get there as well as the opportunity to see the little Garífuna village of Sambo Creek. A taxi ride could be expensive (comparatively) unless you take one of the collectivo taxis or negotiate a rate in advance.

Kabasa restaurant, Sambo Creek, HondurasSitting under the second floor champa (palm frond roof) by the ocean is always nice. This restaurant has some interesting wooden chairs and stair railings which you can see in the slide show below. Plan on spending more time if you go to the Sambo Creek location. I don't know why, but it always seems to take a long time there.

Kabasa? receives another one of those rare La Gringa recommendations!

To view more photos of the food and La Ceiba and the Sambo Creek Restaurants, enjoy the slideshow below:

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