Boukan is a restaurant specializing in Haitian street food.
Fried foods rule this menu co-owned by chef Marc-elie Lissade, who's been on a years-long mission to bring casual Haitian eats to the forefront of Toronto's food scene.
This vibrant restaurant takes its name from the Creole word for campfire, specifically, the historic fires which were central to the gatherings held by Haitian slaves where dancing, food, and culture were shared.
Boukan sits away from the main drag of Kingston, but it's definitely worth a trip to this little house on a slanted hill.
There aren't more than 20 seats in the restaurant, which has a wall dedicated to work from a rotating roster of local artists that will change every two months.
The colours extend to downstairs to the wall of signatures left behind from friends and customers.
There's also a wall of international beers left over from the French restaurant that preceded it, which ironically, is missing the Haitian brew Prestige (we can thank the AGCO for that).
Chef Lissade—whose accolades include MasterChef Canada, Breakfast with Wyclef, and Taste of the Caribbean—cooks up all the essential Haitian comfort foods, including lots of fritay (prounounced free-tie), which is basically anything fried.
Plaintains, which are fried up, flattened down, and folded around in a bunch of ways, are the base for nearly everything.
A Burger Boukanye ($17) is a Lissade creation that forgoes brioche and uses two pieces of plaintain as the bun instead.
Stuffed inside is a plant-based vegan patty, made with a mix of veggies and djon djon, a black mushroom found only in northern Haiti.
It's unwieldy, and definitely a mouthful, so I suggest cutting it or pressing it down so you can get all that delicious plaintain, patty, vegan mayo (made from honey and cayenne pepper), and pikliz: a Haitian slaw.
I'm fascinated by the djon djon: you can also try this tasty mushroom in a side order of the djon djon rice ($6.50).
Fried plaintain that's ingeniously pressed with a lime squeezer creates a perfect finger food bowl for fillings like swordfish or shrimp with avocado mousse on top.
If you're heading over with a group of friends, I suggest the bak fritay, which is commonly ordered from fritay vendors off the street. For $45, this epic platter allows up to four people a sample of all Boukan's fritay.
It comes with chicken wings, goat, and griyo (chunks of pork shoulder), and slew of plantain fritters, sweet plaintain, sweet potato fries, and marinad, a fluffy fried dough that's to die for.
A side of gravy reminds me a lot of the Swiss Chalet gravy (a good thing), but to my surprise, it's totally vegan. The recipe's a secret, though epis, a green Haitian seasoning mix, is a component in almost everything at Boukan.
A pile of beignets ($8) can be covered in Nutella, mango, or guava sauce, depending on your preference.
You'll definitely need some sort of cocktail, or some Haitian soda, Couronne, for a rush of sugar after all that fried food.
If fried foods, plaintain, and afropop on blast are your idea of a good time, like it is mine, a trip to Boukan is a must.
Boukan restaurant's write-up was done at their original Kingston Road location.
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