Tap Tap, Miami (VIDEO)

819 Fifth Street, Miami Beach, Florida 33139. No. Of course this is not the Caribbean, but something tells us otherwise. The colors? The incongruous sounds? The overbearing exoticism of the smells? The visual delirium enshrouding the walls? "The experience we'd like people to feel when they come into the restaurant is basically the feeling that they've travelled to Haiti, to get a sense of what Haitian culture's about," Gary Sanon-Jules acknowledges's mental wanderings.

The general manager continues by explaining that the term "Tap Tap" refers to the regular means of transport for Haitians -- where the colorful buses are plastered with the driver's favorite band, Bible passage and subjects that essentially represent their personality -- a wonderful example we see parked right outside the kaleidoscopic eatery. The expressive nature of the culture doesn't end there, in fact it overflows across the walls, "art was created when Haiti was about to elect their first democratically elected leader, so the vibrancy of that era is represented on the walls." The feeling is immediate when you step inside -- the vibrant Haitian colours, "so happy, so resilient, you really get a feel of what it's all about." Sanon-Jules gushes excitedly when we mention the cuisine that's "food for the soul": apparently the secret is in the marinade, but he reveals no more...

He swiftly diverts our attention back to the walls, to the two murals by Wilfrid Daleus in the main dining room, portraying what seems like different scenes from the island. Pointing to the pasted charcoal, beans and rice on the mural, Sanon-Jules playfully explains that whenever they run out in the restaurant, they come out and scrape off what they need off the artwork. And then switches to a more serious tone, as a Haitian himself, he proclaims that they're very proud of their history and culture and as a result of their collaborative efforts in fund-raising, raised over $50,000 last year for the Partners in Health charity. Even resuming their philanthropic efforts after the success, in aid of the Haitian people.

"But here, it's about giving people a sense of the beauty, what Haiti's about, because Haiti matters." On that light note, we no longer blame ourselves for thinking we were in the Caribbean.

Text by Carmen Ho for App now available for Nokia devices from the OVI Store