Har Gau


Monday, 3 August 2009

Jerk City, 189 Wardour Street, London, W1F 8ZD

Jerk City, Wardour St

The other day, I tried to make a list of all the types of cuisine I’d not tried, and the list was quite long. Thing is, going through the list, I realised that the reason I’d not tried these types of cuisine is because it’s not readily available (not in town anyway). If it’s some exotic, off-the-beaten-track type thing, I’m not gonna know to try it unless it’s in the middle of town or something.

That said, Caribbean food has always been one of the types of food I’ve been wanting to try. I just never really got around to trying it because whenever we tried to decide on places for food, the easiest option would be to stick with what you know.

So, when some friends mentioned that they wanted to try it out too, we said let’s go.

Jerk City menu

Jerk City is located in Soho, which surprised me a little as despite having been to Soho many times, I have never actually noticed this place before. Though it looks more like a takeaway than a restaurant, there is a surprisingly large amount of space inside the restaurant. Brown tables and chairs fill the bit towards the back of the restaurant, while the front of the place consists of a counter manned (or woman-ed) by a rather stern looking lady, who takes orders while staring sternly at you.

Fear makes one hungry, as they say.

Jerk City table layout

As the five of us snuggled into a table by the wall (table for four, which made for cosy dining), we made a point to order as many things as possible from the menu, but one of each item only, so as to maximise the number of things we could try. Every one of us there were Caribbean novices, so this was exciting stuff.

Going to the counter (nervous glances as we waited for the lady to stare at us), we rattled on.

From the long list we had of things to try, 30% of it was sold out. In these situations, hungry people do what hungry people do.

We then order 2 of everything. Out goes the trying-everything-out mission, in comes the eat-everything-in-sight task.

Jerk City - Jerk chicken wings £4

Jerk chicken wings £4

Four (or was it three) big pieces of chicken wings, drenched in a sauce which very much resembled spicy BBQ sauce (which I now think is Jerk sauce?). Tasty it was indeed, though the chicken wings were slightly dry, in the kind of way which makes you think they had been left too long in the oven perhaps. Still, nothing a good dose of sauce can’t fix. Fun finger food which satisfied us (for a while) while waiting for the other bits to arrive.

Jerk city - Beef patty £1.50

Beef patty £1.50 (all the other patties were sold out, and we didn’t feel like having the vegetable patty, so it was 3 patties to go)

I’ve always wondered how good these would be compared to the Malaysian curry puff. The pastry looks slightly yellow, and seems too flat to contain any interesting things in it (or so I thought). Taking my first bite, I was instantly interested.

The pastry is made from … something good. It’s not flaky, neither is it shortcrust, so I really don’t know what it is. It’s dense, it’s slightly salty, and doesn’t get soft from the filling inside as that is quite dry also. Really tasty pastry.

Filling-wise, not much to say about that. Bits of chicken and some potato took up the space within the pastry, but they were definitely not in the league of the awe-inspiring curry puff.

Jerk City - Ackee and saltfish with rice and peas £7 (salted cod fish with onions, sweet peppers and ackee, a fruit used as a vegetable)

Ackee with saltfish, served with rice and peas £7 (salted cod fish with onions, sweet peppers and ackee)

The menu described ‘ackee’ as a type of fruit used as a vegetable. From what we had, I couldn’t tell which bit of the meal was the ‘ackee’, so can’t comment on it. We ordered it because we were interested to see if the salted cod fish was in any way similar to the Chinese version of the salted fish (ham yee).

The best description for the dish came from my fellow diner, who said that it looked like scrambled egg with spice, and tasted like scrambled egg with spice too. Don’t get us wrong, this is a good thing as we like scrambled egg with spice. The fish (presumably the white pieces of things) was soft and lovely, and the texture was a mixture of scrambled egg, fish, and tofu. Taste-wise, it was slightly salty, with a hint of spice, and went very well indeed with the rice and peas.

While we’re on this topic, rice and peas is not rice and peas at all! We were (stupidly) expecting rice and green peas but what came was coconut-flavoured rice with kidney beans. Admittedly, it tastes much better than what rice and green peas would taste like, so no complains there.

Jerk City - Curry mutton with plain rice £8.50 (large)

Curry mutton with plan rice (large portion) £8.50

*Favourite dish of the meal*
This was superb. The mutton was soft and fell off so easily from the bone, the spices had infused almost perfectly into the meat, and the dish was brilliant as it was. Plain rice made it shine even more, as it let the tastebuds rest a little between chomps of curry. If you’re here, this has to be one of the things you try.

Jerk City - Curry mutton with rice and peas £7 (slowly cooked with herbs and spices)

Curry mutton with rice and peas £7

Same as the one above, but with rice and (not green) peas.

Jerk City - Jerk chicken with rice and peas £7.50

Jerk chicken with rice and peas £7.50

The chicken portion was huge, and cooked much better than the chicken wings were. Soft, tender meat accompanied by the same spicy BBQ sauce, and it went so well with the rice and peas.

Jerk City receipt

The meal for 5 came out at less than £12 each, which is reasonable for this part of London.

Would I recommend this place? It depends, I guess, on whether you’ve had Caribbean food before or not. This was my first Caribbean dinner ever, so can’t say if it was the best of its kind or not, but it seemed tasty enough to me, so we’ll hopefully be returning to try more of its menu out.

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KimHo said...

Based on the description, the food looks a bit... Suspicious... In the case of the jerk, the meat (in your case, chicken) is rubbed in a mix of spices which then is steam grilled. However, no sauce is served on top which makes me suspicious as to why BBQ sauce was on top. But, mutton/curry, oh, yeah!

Rice and beans/peas is a staple in the Caribbean and Latin America. In the case of Panama, pigeon pea was the preferred/default pea and it is usually cooked with coconut milk. Yummmmm... (drool!). (Oh, pigeon peas are green with black dots)

Saltfish in the Caribbean is completely different from the Chinese salted fish. Well, it is the same process; however, it is soaked in water to get rid of of the excessive saltiness (of course, it won't get rid of all of it). The Panamanian version is called bacalo and, after soaking in water, it is prepared into a stew with some root vegetables (usually potatoes). And, yes, it "breaks" down to the point you don't really notice it is there! On an unrelated note, despite they could catch fish locally and salt/smoke it, the fish used here is usually cod caught in colder waters and then shipped to the Caribbean.

Despite the wackiness, it is a good thing you gave Caribbean a chance! :)

monchichi said...

Hi KimHo, I was wondering about the sauce, actually as the other Jerk Chickens I'd seen previously were dry, thanks for the information. Regarding the saltfish, I really liked it! Despite it being different from the Chinese version (or not despite, since it is actually a different cuisine), it had its own unique flavour, and texture, tasted nice!

Unknown said...

Interesting post - the ackee would have been the yellow soft parts mixed in. I can tell you as a Jamaican that there are lots of different versions on ackee and saltfish. Some just steam the ackee and mix it on top so it remains whole. Personally I prefer mine with a lot of fresh vegetables (tomato, sweet pepper etc).

Nice reviews of restaurants though, very interesting!

monchichi said...

Hi mesmerine,
Thanks for coming by, and for the comments. I enjoyed the ackee and salted cod dish, but just wondered how it compared to other versions of this dish in terms of authenticity. I'll try out other restaurants at some point to find out!

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