Tag Archives: Jamaican
I’m counting down the 100 best dishes I tasted in 2016…
|MISS LILY’S 7A|
|109 Avenue A (at East 7th Street),
I’m counting down the 100 best dishes I tasted in 2015…
I’ve been wanting to go to The Islands restaurant for their homecooked Jamaican food since pretty early in my New York foodie career. I finally made it out here for lunch one day when they were not seating people but doing take-out orders. That didn’t bother me because I still got to try their legendary jerk chicken, which features large cuts of bone-in chicken rubbed with a smoky/spicy jerk seasoning and sauce. The chicken falls right off the bone and will warm you up on a cold day or fill you up any time of the year. Price: $8/$10
|803 Washington Avenue (between Sterling and Lincoln Place),
Prospect Heights, Brooklyn
For the third year in a row, I’m going to attempt to eat every single item on Time Out New York’s annual 100 Best Dishes list. In no particular order, here’s my take on their Top 100. Let the gluttony continue…
Of all the hip and fancy restaurants in this city, none of them were serving Jamaican food. Sure, there’s plenty to be had, but you’d have to go to a food cart or a take-out spot in Harlem or Brooklyn to get a real Caribbean flavor. And I’ve been to many of them. Jamaican food is something I’ve come to fully appreciate.
And now, thanks to the hordes of people who flock to the new Miss Lily’s every night, Jamaican food is cool and sexy. This new spot on Houston Street is one of the hottest eateries in the city. I’ve often walked by the restaurant and it’s always jamming with good looking people and lines outside. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought this was a night club.
And the ambiance inside helps perpetuate that feeling. It feels like a cross between the lounge of a big music producer and an island luncheonette. The menu is printed above the bar with photos of some of the dishes along with a display case of their daily cakes. Supposedly during the day, this place feels much more like a bakery than a dance hall.
We chose not to pay too much attention to all that kitsch and hoopla (although the music was infectious) and focus more on the food. Our server was warm and patient and we had a fantastic dinner that was wrapping up just as the party started swelling.
I’ve devoured Time Out’s 100 Best dishes and now, once again, I’ve been inspired to create my own list. These are the 100 dishes I have continued to think about since tasting them at some point in 2011. Look for another five dishes every few days.
10. PORK MILANESE at ROMAN’S
At most restaurants you may never have the same meal twice, but at Roman’s in Fort Greene, it’s completely true. The menu is brand new every day and while some favorites, like the pork milanese from the Time Out list return, the restaurant seems to constantly re-invent itself. This might make for an inconsistent meal, as other bloggers have hinted at, but the one time we went, I was pretty impressed and satiated by the Italian influenced meal.
Everything was good, but Time Out hit the nail on the head with this pork cutlet. It took a few phone calls to confirm it would be on the daily menu, but it was well worth the wait. This is the Italian version of a pork schnitzel, pounded until very thin and then breaded and fried until tender. The one at Roman’s was rather greaseless and perfectly seasoned. It’s topped with some bitter greens for bite and garnished with a lemon for acidity. If you find it on the menu at Roman’s, I urge you to order it while you can. Price: $19
|243 DeKalb Avenue (between Clermont Avenue and Vanderbilt Avenue),
Fort Greene, Brooklyn
9. CHICKEN BISCUIT at PIES ‘N’ THIGHS
At Williamsburg hangout Pies ‘n’ Thighs, the best things to order are the fried chicken and the dreamy rotating dessert pies. In many ways this chicken biscuit, which is served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner brings both those worlds together.
It’s a brilliant combination of sweet and savory. The biscuit might be the best I’ve ever had with a firm, browned crust and a buttery, flaky middle. Sandwiched between those two gorgeous buns is a battered and fried chicken breast that’s slathered in honey butter and drizzled with hot sauce. The spicy and sweet flavors linger as you savor the rich butteriness of the chicken and the biscuit. It’s a match made in heaven, well more specifically, at Pies ‘N’ Thighs. Price: $6
|PIES ‘N’ THIGHS|
|166 South 4th Street (at Driggs Avenue)
8. JERK GRILLED CORN at MISS LILY’S
When you think grilled corn in this city, the one place that comes to mind is Cafe Habana. Their classic Mexican-style corn found its way a bit higher up on my list. But this year Miss Lily’s opened a few blocks away from Cafe Habana and they’re serving a version of grilled corn that is changing the game.
This place is so interesting – serving both homemade cakes and refined, hip takes on Jamaican food. The vibe is a cross between the lounge of a big music producer and an island luncheonette. Here they serve what they call jerk grilled corn. The cob is grilled and blackened playing up the sweet and smoky flavors of the corn kernels. It’s loaded with a spicy and garlicky jerk mayo and studded with crunchy toasted coconut. It’s an inventive flavor explosion that makes me re-question where I should go for my grilled corn cravings. Price: $4
|127 West Houston Street (between Sullivan and MacDougal Street)
7. BUTCHER’S STEAK at ST. ANSELM
This turned out to be a beef heavy year for me. I ordered large ribeyes, bone-in strip steaks, and other cuts from some of the hotter new restaurants, like Red Farm, The Dutch, and Tertulia. And I have to admit that they were all pretty flavorful and tender. It was a good meat year, but the best steak I tasted happened to be at newly re-designed grill restaurant St. Anselm.
Hanger steak may be my favorite cut of beef since it’s thin, lean, and full of flavor. I quite enjoy the chewy tenderness of the cut when it’s done right. And here it’s done perfectly. Charred on the outside, rich and tender throughout, and bursting with seasoned and meaty flavors. The bright garlic butter melting on top puts this steak right up there with the best in the city. Price: $15
|355 Metropolitan Avenue (between 4th Street and Havemeyer Street)
6. GOAT’S MILK ICE CREAM at VICTORY GARDEN
SADLY, VICTORY GARDEN IS NOW CLOSED.
That first fateful evening that I stepped inside the clean and bright shop known as Victory Garden was the night I begin my new obsession. This store sells any number of healthy and lactose free items, including soaps and sachets. But the main attraction is their soft-serve goat’s milk ice cream.
Not only is this ice cream healthier and cleaner than most soft serves, but Victory Garden offers it in exotic and cathartic flavors like Mastic (an anise-like plant resin that aids in digestion), Cinnamon Lemon, and Healing Powers of India (turmeric, carrot, nigella, and ginger). These flavors are balanced with sweet, spicy, herbal, and floral notes. It’s a wonderful combination and with some crunchy cocoa nibs or sweet honeycomb candy as toppings, you’ll certainly feel like you’re eating dessert. But won’t feel nearly as guilty about this new obsession. Price: $4-$5
|31 Carmine Street (between Bleecker Street and Bedford Street)
Once again Time Out New York released their Top 100 Dishes of the year and once again, I’m going to eat my way through every one. And no price point or subway delay will stop me. In no particular order, here’s my take on their Top 100.
Most people would throw in the towel right now. I’m not most people.
Technically, I’ve failed. One of my Time Out list items is unattainable. Barry’s Jerk Delights, which supposedly served some amazing jerk chicken, is no longer open. I had been calling for a few days and the number had been temporarily disconnected. I tried not to freak out and chalked it up to maybe a changed phone number.
But when we arrived in a rough neighborhood of the Bronx and looked for the storefront that matched Barry’s address, we found something that was not on Time Out’s list: a shuttered storefront with a sign reading, “Coming Soon: Richie Rich Caribbean Taste”. Where was Barry’s? Looks like we were too late. I guess Barry’s has gone out of business.
I was really craving some spicy jerk chicken too – not to mention eager to get another list item. Since I did go up to where Barry’s was supposed to be and did everything I could (aside from traveling back in time) to taste the list item, I’m going to check it off and use this space to talk about another jerk chicken that I think deserves mention.
Veronica’s Kitchen is one of the carts I frequent on my downtown food cart tour. And she serves the best jerk chicken I’ve ever had. It’s served on the bone, but Veronica’s culinary techniques is no match for that bone. The meat slides right off. The moist white meat, which is dotted with dark-drown spices and flecks of red chilies, melted away with each delicious bite. Allspice and scotch bonnet peppers are the usual main ingredients in jerk and they were ever present here. And while the heat is intense, it never gets to the point of being overwhelming.
She serves it with some spinach-flecked rice and a choice of any southern comfort side, my favorite being the soft macaroni and cheese and the intensely flavored pumpkin.
Barry’s unfortunately got away from me, but I’m still going. I’m more than 3/4 through the list and I already know there will be more bumps in the road. But like I’ve said, nothing’s going to stop me from trying all 100 dishes. I just might have to make a few adjustments. I’m sure Time Out will understand.
Would Barry Jerk Delights’ Jerk Chicken make my Top 100 of the year? I guess I’ll never know, but I assure you Veronica’s Kitchen’s version will, earning a 9 out of 10. I can only imagine it is as good, if not better than Barry’s. But for now, I’ll just have to keep imagining.
|Front Street (at Pine Street)
If Time Out New York can do it, so can I. I’ve been inspired and satiated by Time Out’s 2009 Top 100 list and look forward to conquering their 2010 list very soon. But from now until the end of the year, I present my own Top 100 Dishes of the year in reverse order. Look for another five dishes every few days.
30. GALBI at BAPCHA
I’ve been giving Food Cart Tours now with Urban Oyster for a little over six months. And the tour has expanded since we started to include more trucks and carts. I’m still meeting new vendors every day and tasting new food. But the first contact I was able to personally make for the company was with John and Jeanie Lee at Bapcha, formerly known as the Bulgogi and Kimchi Cart.
Bapcha means “food cart” in Korean and the couple sells delicious, freshly prepared Korean food. Everything from mandu (fried dumplings) to kimchi (fermented cabbage) to galbi (beef short ribs). And when I first tried the galbi, I knew that this cart had to be part of our tour.
The short ribs are marinated in a special Korean soy sauce (that includes the secret ingredient: pear juice). It’s grilled to well past medium rare, but it maintains a tender chewiness that is reminiscent of brisket. The taste is smoky and sweet. The fat is almost non-existent but the flavor is all there. With a squirt of hot sauce and a side of sweet korean noodles, this is a perfect lunch alternative to a burger. Or a steak sandwich. Price: $8
|South Side of West 49th Street (between Avenue of the Americas and 7th Avenue)
29. PEANUT PORRIDGE at JAMIACAN DUTCHY
SADLY, JAMAICAN DUTCHY IS NOW CLOSED.
Breakfast is served way too early for me. At Jamaican Dutchy, they start serving it at 7am and keep it going until about 11. And as of late, I’ve reverted back to my teenage days and sleep until about then. Partly it’s because I’m up all night writing blog entries.
So I’m never in midtown early enough to taste Jamaican Dutchy’s authentic breakfast foods like salt fish, callaloo, and different types of porridges. The porridges rotate depending on the day (sometimes banana porridge, sometimes hominy porridge, etc.) On Fridays, they make peanut porridge.
And one of the perks of giving these Food Cart tours is that I’ve become friends with many of the vendors and Ricky at Jamaican Dutchy has been kind enough to save me some porridge on numerous occasions. I’ve only gotten to taste the peanut porridge, but it’s pretty outrageous.
Porridge is similar to oatmeal, but less grainy and more creamy. It has pieces of peanuts and comes close to a rich peanut butter flavor with a touch of sweetness. I can’t imagine eating this for breakfast every day (because of the richness), but I imagine that’s why they alternate porridge flavors. It’s served hot in a paper cup and on a cold day on the streets of NYC, it’s just what the doctor ordered. No matter what time of day it is. Price: $4
|West 51st Street (at 7th Avenue)
Follow on Twitter: @jamaicandutchy
28. SPEKULOOS SPREAD at WAFELS & DINGES
Most of you know in addition to searching for the best food in NY, leading food cart tours, and waiting tables, I’ve also been tackling Time Out New York’s Top 100 Dishes of the year. And truth be told, their annual list is what inspired me to compile this long and rambling list of dishes.
And so many of the items I have on this countdown come from last year’s Time Out list (partly because that list made up about 1/3 of my meals last year). The new list was released in October, right when I was putting together my own Top 100. And the one item that coincidentally appeared on both their list and my list (completely coincidentally) was the Spekuloos Spread at Wafels & Dinges.
And what’s even funnier is that we both picked the sauce that they put on their fantastic Belgian-style waffles. The waffles themselves (which come in two forms – Brussels and Liege) are great, but the spread that is listed as a possible dinges (topping) is just amazing.
Spekuloos is a Dutch or Belgian holiday cookie very similar to a gingerbread. Wafels & Dinges makes it into a spreadable condiment, much like nutella or peanut butter. In fact many people on the tour think this is peanut butter at first. Or maybe a melted-down Teddy Graham. It has sweet, spicy notes of gingerbread and graham crackers. And with some whipped cream and bananas is a perfect addition to any waffle. Or buy a jar for yourself and eat it out of the jar. Like Pooh and his honey. Price: Free with purchase of a waffle, $7.95 for jar
|WAFELS & DINGES|
Follow on Twitter: @waffletruck
27. CHILLED BERRY SOUP at BISTRO TRUCK
SADLY, BISTRO TRUCK IS NOW CLOSED.
It’s the dream of every street food junkie to have all the carts and trucks in one location. And in many ways, the Vendy Awards brings that dream to reality each year. They’re hosted by the Street Vendors Project and with the price of admission, you get to sample the food of all the nominees.
This year I was fortunate enough to attend with Urban Oyster and can tell you I can’t wait until next year. I had some amazing food that day, but one dish in particular really blew my mind and surpassed all expectations. It was an unassuming little sample of the Chilled Berry Soup from the Bistro Truck.
Bistro Truck is usually parked in the Flatiron District and I’ve had some of their Mediterranean food in the past. But I had never tried their soup. The chilled berry soup (which is currently not available in the cold weather) was such a refreshing treat at the Vendy Awards. It was a thick, yet smooth blend of berries and spices. It’s slightly sweet, but savory enough to be a great appetizer. And a swirl of yogurt or two held the whole thing together. There was so much food at the event and I had to resist taking another cup to ensure I had room to sample everything. But you can be sure I will be returning to the truck come next summer when I pray the soup will be available once again.
|Fifth Avenue (between 16th and 17th Street)
Follow on Twitter: @bistrotruck
Photo Courtesy of: foodie-call.com
26. TILAPIA WITH GREEN CHILI SAUCE at KWIK MEAL
I would have never thought to order fish from a cart. I think of Halal Carts and the things that come to mind are chicken, lamb, falafel, and rice. With a few sauces thrown in for good measure.
Well, Muhammed Rahman of Kwik Meal (and formerly a sous chef at the Russian Tea Room) likes to keep the culinary surprises coming. We visit Kwik Meal on the tour and sample his fantastic falafel. But I figured I should be as well-versed in his menu as possible. So I came early one day to try his fish.
It’s grilled to order (they even ask you for a temperature on the salmon) and it tastes unlike any fish I’ve ever had. It’s been marinated in a mix of Bengali spices and is topped with Muhammed’s special green chili sauce. Basmati rice (with lots of Indian spices), fresh mixed vegetables (from mushrooms to snap peas), and a white sauce (yogurt based) add to the perfect composition of the dish. I can’t remember when I’ve ever had tilapia this flavorful and tender. It inspired me to buy some myself and try to cook it. But I just don’t have the same magic as Muhammed, so I’ll stick to his preparations from now on. Price: $8.50
|West 45th Street (at Sixth Avenue)