I used to love Mr. Kim’s old-fashioned shop on Wall Street in Uptown Kingston. He sold things the Chinese exported before everything came from China, like $5 canvas Mary-Janes, porcelain tea sets, paper fans and such. The back of the shop was a grocery carrying Asian ingredients at terrific prices. It was a sad day when Mr. Kim finally retired.
But here’s the good news: Gabriel’s Cafe, which operated for more than 10 years in a tiny storefront around the corner on John Street, reopened in Mr. Kim’s old spot in February, offering a new menu and a lot more elbow room to enjoy it.
Gabriel Vasquez, who is from Colombia and the Gabriel in question, spent nearly a year renovating the space. Paintings hang on the brick walls, the mood is relaxed and cheery, and there’s even a small area where the hopelessly nostalgic can browse among the remaining Asian ingredients before sitting down to eat.
Vasquez spent many years in Manhattan, where he taught at the Natural Gourmet Cookery School, and co-owned a vegan restaurant. His M.O. is to use grass-fed meats, organic grains and beans, free-range chickens and eggs, and produce from the farmer’s market to make fresh food that carnivores, vegans, vegetarians and glutenphobes can all enjoy. The new menu has a more pronounced South American accent, so you’ll find those yummy black-eyed pea fritters called acarajé along with empanadas, arepas, egg dishes, soups and salads. At lunch last week, I had a really good salmon sandwich on house-made bread, with mayonnaise, capers and a few orange segments dressing it up. It was generous enough that our friend Gerald, who ordered the same thing but has more restraint than I do, ate only half of his and saved the rest for later. My husband had no trouble finishing his tasty Venezuelan Pepito Sandwich — sliced pot roast topped with vegetables and a kicky house dressing.
Large plates might include the Moqueca de Peixe, a Brazilian seafood stew; marinated Peruvian roast chicken; Yucatan slow-braised pork; and a vegetarian Cuzco stew of brown rice, quinoa, onions, greens, potatoes and crumbled tempeh. Prices top out at a more-than-reasonable $15.50. Breads are all baked in house, and on Saturdays Vasquez makes croissants, pastries and scones, which sell fast.
No wine or beer, but there are fresh juices, smoothies, coffees and teas. And our server told us there’s a bar in the planning stages.