June 2006 Cheap Eats
Some of the area's most spot-on Jamaican fare comes out of the tiny kitchen of this fish market and restaurant popular with the Caribbean community. Everyone gets a warm welcome from owner Yvonne Edwards, who skips from kitchen to dining room to fish market and back with speed and grace.
Don't see any fish? They're buried in mounds of ice, giving the place an old-fashioned feel. The homey vibe carries on in the dining room, which is brightened with colorful fishnets and seafaring artwork.
Nearly everything on the menu is a keeper, with the possible exception of the bland steamed fish with okra. The Caribbean mainstay, escabèche–fried fish smothered with melting onions in a tart vinegar sauce–might be the most swoon-inducing. But the brown stew fish is a close second, the snapper hitting the palate with an intensely winy, briny flavor. The Blue Mountain style shrimp turns up the heat with a blast of red pepper and coriander, while fish 'n' chips, a nod to Jamaica's colonial past, crackles with a brittle, greaseless crust. That same clean frying shows up in the crispy Jamaican fritters called Festival, a sort of ultra-delicious hushpuppy. Even the rice and peas accompanying most plates are more flavorful, more coconutty, here.
Because everything is cooked to order–even the wonderful fruit juices like pineapple ginger are made in-house–and because the staff is small, waits can be long, which is probably why the place does a brisker carryout than eat-in business, at least on weekdays. But that feels authentic, too. In the Caribbean, things unfold at a slower pace. They call it island time.