Dept. of Unacquired Tastes: However fond I may be of coriander, ginger, and cardamom, my morning brew is off-limits. Time will tell whether Niru brand spicy coffee (175 g., $5.49), manufactured in Canada for the Sri Lankan expat market, will find a spot in my afternoons or early evenings.
Many of the best-known varieties of roti are made from a wheat-based dough that's stretched gossamer thin, then folded and refolded into a bread of many flaky layers. Sometimes it's wrapped around a filling, sometimes it's torn and swiped through a curry. Sri Lankan pol roti are generally stiffer; these three ($3.50) were about the size and shape of air-hockey pucks. Their defining ingredient is grated coconut, or pol, which adds calories enough to make this a light meal in itself. Also shown: katta sambol, the traditional condiment, featuring onion, fish, and chilli pepper.
It's zingier than your usual tunafish. Filled out with onion and chopped green chiles, this fish bun ($1.75) won't set tastebuds ablaze but is more than sufficient to jump-start your day. In addition to supplying its companion business and neighbor, San Rasa — the well-established Sri Lankan restaurant that moved here, a short distance up the hill from Bay St., in 2013 — the bakery also functions as a deli and short-order kitchen. The window menu proffers gyros, burgers and fries, and hero sandwiches as well as pancakes, bacon, eggs, and toast. A fish bun, apparently, still isn't everyone's idea of breakfast.
San Rasa Bakery & Deli 19 Corson Ave. (at Daniel Low Terrace), Tompkinsville, Staten Island
I can't pin a date on that faded sign for the erstwhile Stapleton Country Store. It's likely the sign isn't all that old; it's even more likely that the store was never all that country. More interesting is the change of name, not for what it says about the goods on the shelves but for what it suggests about the customers, and about the store owner's appreciation of their priorities. Few folks, nowadays, take the time for cracker-barrel philosophizing.
Easy Grab & Go Deli & Grocery 374 Van Duzer St. (at Beach St.), Stapleton, Staten Island 718-727-5446
The Rispoli Pastry Shop, which decamped several summers ago from Bensonhurst to Staten Island, was a neighborhood favorite not only for baked goods but also for housemade Italian ices. Many of those ices are available once again at a tiny Brooklyn storefront, made to the original recipes.
A few of the colors are too vibrant to be natural — the blueberry glows as bright as a jungle butterfly — but the flavors I've tried (small, $2) are pure and not overly sweet. Lemon, speckled with the occasional bit of zest, tastes like lemon and not sugar, and the cantaloupe, except for the icy texture, might have been scooped from a wedge of the fresh fruit.
Rispoli Ices 1310 78th St. (13th-14th Aves.), Dyker Heights, Brooklyn 718-236-2201 www.Facebook.com/rispoli.ices Also available at the Rispoli Pastry Shop & Cafe 29 Hyatt St. (at Central Ave.), St. George, Staten Island 718-273-5224
Catrachos like caracoles. "Catrachos" is a common name for natives of Honduras, and "caracoles" — in Spanish, literally "snails" — signifies conch. The coconut-milk aroma of sopa de caracol (weekends only, $14) was apparent even before my bowl hit the table.
Though the soup is also prepared with the conch's own juices, the color and mildly peppery flavor might come from annatto, staining most recognizable ingredients — yuca, green plantain, onion — the same orange as the chewy shellfish. Compare this greenish rendition from the former La Orquidea.
Los Catrachos Restaurant 125 Beach St. (Van Duzer-Jackson Sts.), Stapleton, Staten Island 718-448-4820
This Italian Renaissance-inspired neo-classical building, designed by Delano & Aldrich and completed in 1925, evokes the maritime heritage of Staten Island's Stapleton neighborhood. The entrance — sited, as it happens, at the corner of Water and Beach streets — stands behind a portico whose floor is laid with a compass rose and whose roof is a fish-scaled dome. Carved seashells and knotted ropes adorn the facades.
Prominent, even from a distance, are four identical sconces that support lanterns with their tails. The above-linked document from the Landmarks Preservation Commission maintains that this is a dolphin; whether mammal or food fish, it seems more fanciful than realistic.
Staten Island Savings Bank Building 81 Water St. (at Beach St.), Stapleton, Staten Island
Though cow skin is available at a nearby Mexican butcher and grocer, this Nigerian-owned shop may be the neighborhood's sole provisioner focused wholly on West Africa. Perhaps it supplies an eatery farther north on Targee, on a somewhat scrubby residential stretch, where, in a picket-fenced yard, I saw (from my tiptoes) several communal tables and a cooking area kitted out with grill and stewpots.
That quasi-public enterprise, however, seems to be open only in the evening. By light of day, Ecowas supplied me with a can of Vimto (12 fl. oz., $1), a lightly carbonated raspberry and black currant-flavored soft drink. Look for it at many West African restaurants, too.
Ecowas African Food & Video 480 Targee St. (near Vanderbilt Ave.), Park Hill, Staten Island 718-273-6859
Maima's, in Jamaica, Queens, may be the only Liberian restaurant in town, but a large émigré population in Staten Island has fostered an outdoor market where perhaps a dozen vendors, primarily women alone or in pairs, proffer West African staples.
Mere days after my introduction to East Met West — whose awning advertises five cuisines, three of them regional Chinese cooking styles — I spotted Bay House Bistro. "American, Asian, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Mongolian, Singaporian, Thai, Japanese" amounts to at least eight distinct national cuisines you can enjoy at the "sake bar." As of yet, I've sampled none.
Bay House Bistro 574 Bay St. (at Union Pl.), Stapleton, Staten Island 718-715-9539