A combo bowl at Blue Mermaid in Uniondale comes with...

A combo bowl at Blue Mermaid in Uniondale comes with six dishes, including curry chicken, bottom left, macaroni and cheese and black rice. Credit: Newsday/Andi Berlin

James Faustin dug his tongs into a tray of crispy meat scattered with bell peppers and wedged a chunk of it off the bone for a sample. The dark meat had a crackly texture that was dry, almost like jerky, but savory and snackable.

“You have to try the fried goat,” he said, referring to tassot, an iconic dish from Haiti that draws from West African, European and indigenous Taino influences. The meat did not taste the least bit gamey but instead had a slight citrus flavor.

Wearing a chef’s coat and a vibrant blue head wrap, his sister Darlie Hilaire explained how the meat is carefully washed in citrus and sour orange juice, then rinsed with boiling citrus water to remove impurities. This preparation is a hallmark of Haitian food, she said, and although their new steam table spot, Blue Mermaid, also prepares food from Jamaica, many of the dishes are done in the Haitian style.

“If you don’t clean your meat that way, nobody will eat from you,” she said later over the phone. “Haitian cooking is Creole cooking. It’s slow cooking, layering of flavor.” 

The new spot in Uniondale is a family affair, owned by their mother, Frantze Faustin, who was born in Port-de-Paix in the north of Haiti. After moving to the U.S. in the '70s, Frantze studied culinary arts and hospitality management at New York City College of Technology and trained with chef Michel Guérard in France. Then came 37 years in the kitchen at the New York Marriott Marquis in Times Square.

She retired at the age of 72 during the pandemic, and with nothing to do, Darlie noticed that her mother had begun to decline. The family came together to get her a place of her own in January. Darlie's husband, Thierry Hilaire, worked with their cousin Julien Theodule on the construction. Faustin's wife, Nicolla Chambers, also became a partner. And Darlie's 7-year-old daughter, Cameryn Madison Hilaire, came up with the name, a combination of “The Little Mermaid” and Darlie's favorite color, blue. While the other adult family members have full-time jobs, Frantze works there every day. 

In the former home of Jamaican Bickle, the spiffy new shop boasts a steam table brimming with Caribbean staples such as griot, Haiti’s national dish of citrusy deep fried pork bits, goat in Creole sauce, curry goat, plantains, black rice and more. The uninitiated may find it difficult to choose, but Blue Mermaid has combo plates.

For $35, they’ll help you make a “poke bowl” of six different dishes. Black rice, a Haitian specialty that takes on the black hue from a Haitian mushroom called djon djon, is a must. You need it to soak up the fragrantly spiced stews like the curry chicken and stewed chicken in a rich tomato Creole sauce. A meatless eggplant and veggie stew called legume may have been the most delicious bite of the afternoon, as it was richly spiced with epis, a Haitian marinade of scallions, peppers, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper. 

Darlie also recommended the baked mac and cheese, which was made with penne and shaped into a square pan. It wasn’t too saucy, but the cheese flavor was stronger and more pronounced than usual, making it a surprise hit. Even the Haitian patties ($1.75) in the case behind the counter were flakier and more delicate than usual. 

"[My mother] learned how to cook from her mother and her grandmother. But she learned the techniques at school, in her work experience, in her externship,” Darlie said. “The quality of cooking that she was doing in the Marquis was really elevated compared to regular Haitian cooking."

Blue Mermaid, 327 Oak St., Uniondale, 516-246-9727, bluemermaidgourmet.com. Open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Closed Sunday.

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