Monday, May 28, 2012

Solid Value at Jamaican Pizza Jerk

Jamaican Pizza Jerk on UrbanspoonThe chef looks a bit like a friendly pirate with his gold earrings and broad smile revealing a row of gold teeth. On the hot Saturday afternoon I was there with a couple of Food Bloggers, the place was completely dead except for the three of us, although a couple of people drifted in later. A second chef/helper came in much later, so they are probably busier in the evening.

The menu on the Jamaican Pizza Jerk website has an odd stutter and slow-load-time considering its simple layout. Also, don't trust the few pictures that are there. We didn't order any irie bowls this time around, but the picture of cowfoot definitely didn't match up with what I got.

Cowfoot is only available on Saturday and at 1pm, it was "almost ready", so that's what I got, plus a slice of Rumba Cake to share. The other orders were Jerk Chicken and a Jamaican Patty (chicken). Water came with a small wedge of lemon, which is a courtesy you don't always see nowadays. Instead of bread to start, we got a complimentary small plate of freshly fried and (very) salted plantain chips.
  • Cowfoot
    • This picture on the website suggests a little mound of meat, but what came to the table was a long plate separated into three sections:
      • Coleslaw -- on every "meal order". About 1 small bowl's worth.
      • A tight bowlful of rice with large red beans -- also on every "meal order". This was the bulk of the plate and what gets you nice and full for your money.
      • Some large chunks of bone with stew-softened tendon and skin/fat. NO meat. About 1 bowl in volume. Very tasty stew/soup.
    • The stew with the cowfoot was nice, but the actual cowfoot, being just tendon and skin, was boring. It's interesting to try as an ethnic food, but I can see how it wouldn't be for everyone.
    • It comes across more or less like a very firm jelly. Rubbery, but now chewy. Not too much taste to it at all -- all the tastiness is from the stew/soup.
    • It doesn't sound particularly exciting that one third of your plate is rice and another third is coleslaw. And in the grand scheme of things, it isn't, especially if you consider these to be "fillers". But what sets Jamaican Pizza Jerk apart from, say, PCOV, is that the chef goes the extra step to give it interestingness without overdoing things.
      • It's not "just rice", but rice boiled in large red beans, giving the overall presentation an interesting colour and the added taste and texture of the beans.
      • The coleslaw adds a nice orangey colour by de-emphasizing the usual white cabbage; and gives a balance of taste to the plate, opposing the savoury stew and helping with the comparatively plain rice.
  • Jerk Chicken
    • This came with coleslaw and rice, as above.
    • The meat on this seemed a bit reddish, so it might have been a bit on the "medium rare".
    • There's definitely a slight spicy kick, but it wasn't hot per se -- almost on the mild side for my accustomed-to-hot-curry palate.
  • Jamaican Patty - $3
    • This was about the size of two iPhones. Looked deep fried, but it wasn't very oily at all, so it was actually hard to tell.
    • There are three types: Chicken, Beef, and Vegetarian. I didn't get to try this, but the person who ordered it seemed okay with it. Not thrilled, exactly, but not complaining about it either.
  • Fay's Rumba Cake - $3.50
    • Looks like chocolate cake, but it's actually a sort of fruit cake. There's definitely fruitiness to it, but it's all ground in and not clearly visible. A dense, moist cake.
    • Served with possibly canned mango chopped into bits and with syrup.
    • For $3.50, it was a good sized portion, about the size of a Long John donut -- More cake than you might see for $6.00 in other places.
Overall, I think there's interesting food to be had here, and I'm though the vegan pizzas are probably not very Jamaican, I'm curious to go back to try it. For your money, Jamaican Pizza Jerk offers fair, solid value through full-sized filling portions on their meal plates. Not so much with the Jamaican Patties, but at $3 it's not out of line with how take-out street-food style portions tend to be priced (a single samosa, for example, could set you back about that much pretty much anywhere you go).

There was actual table service -- the Chef himself brought the food out to us, and checked in on us mid-way (which was awfully nice since he had to also juggle prepping the kitchen for the day as well) -- but since you pay at the counter, you might be inclined to forget the tip as it's not mentioned and not included in the bill. There's a cup at the counter for tips.

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