(Forgive the recent lack of posts.)
Last week I had a serious craving for some West Indian food. At home, we does cook a bit of everything but I just had a taste for something with a lil' Caribbean flavor; some serious rice n peas, pelau, or macaroni pie, some curry goat or stew chicken or something like that.
So eventually I cook up a nice macaroni pie and some fried chicken (complete with trans fats so don't sue muh) and put a good hurting on that food.
Only thing was that I left back two pieces a chicken for the next day and the wife eat them off at lunch and when a hungry, tired man like de I reach home after work mouth salivating at the thoughts of digging into my chicken what greet me but the empty plastic container staring back at me from the sink. Cuhdear talk about let down then! Dat nuh right! My craving for West Indian food was still not completely fulfilled and I just didn't feel like cooking no more. Cho!
Oh well so I decide I would have to reach one of the numerous West Indian restaurants in Toronto sometime soon to satisfy my craving later that week.
West Indian restaurants in Toronto you say? Yes man is plenty, plenty West Indian restaurants we have here in the T-dot. Yardie food, Trini food, Bajan food, Guyanese food you name it we have it but most of the typical spots tend to be the little Roti shops and those little hole in the wall Jamaican places whose staples are Jerk chicken, Curry Goat and Ox tail.
Not that the food not good in those places I just saying most of the West Indian places around Toronto are of the no frills variety, nothing fancy.
Now like other types of restaurants when dealing with West Indian restaurants you have your good, your bad and your ugly. I aint calling no names cause I don't want to diss nobody for them to come looking to say I give their business bad name and they want to beat me up. No sah I frighten fa my skin!
Same way I aint want to big up no specific place cause nobody aint give Jdid money to mention their name on my blog. Although I will big up the fella that used to sell Roti down in Kensington Market back in the day as the best Roti I taste in Toronto. He shop shut down years back so I will make an exception and give he a mention.
Anyway like I was saying plenty plenty West Indian restaurants in Toronto and I would say that the experiences I've had in them run the gamut from your usual, typical restaurant experiences to some "But wait these people really running a business?" type moments.
Oh the stories I could tell. Like the one about the place that just never seemed to have beers on Friday night even though they knew for certain that every Friday a big bunch of us Caribbean men would be liming there for a couple of hours playing dominoes. You would think in a case like that where it was certain they would sell a fair amount of alcohol and knowing that alcohol is where restaurants tend to make a little profit that they would have something waiting for us but nooo.
Or the one about the fella that sell we the chicken Roti one night and how the curry was sweet sweet sweet. Only problem was ....... well you guys have heard of boneless chicken roti well his was meatless chicken roti. Every bite was pure bone. No exaggeration! So much snap crackle and pop business going on that the Rice Crispie fellas nearly threaten we for infringement of copyright.
Or the story about the place with the whole wheat festival which had a man well offset cause I accustom to dealing with white flour when it come to bakes, festival and dem sorta business. I guess them musse think I worried about trans fats cause whole wheat festival and bakes just don't taste the same as the regular ones. chupse!
Or the one about the place that tell the lady they didn't make the special of the day that particular day cause they just didn't feel like it that day.
Or my favorite West Indian restaurant story where the two non-west indian ladies were all bubbly and order off big load a food; rice n peas, jerk chicken, plan-tain like they know what they doing and then after a little whispered discussion a few minutes later call back the waitress and say "umm we were wondering what exactly is rice n peas?" True true story that, even a fella with my imagination couldn't make that up.
No boy too many stories to tell, we would be here for days.
No let me not go there and let me just give you a few of my simple rules and observations about West Indian restaurants and leave it at that.
Observation one: The fancier the establishment the worse the food usually is. Its like there has to be a trade off of decor for seasoning in the pot when it comes to West Indian places. So usually a hole in the wall, take out only spot where somebody auntie from the country cooking in a dutch pot in the back can be counted on to bring the real flavor while the nice sit down fancy drinks with umbrellas, nice tropical paint up, bob marley playing in the background playing places aint as good.
Oh and on that note if the menu doesn't have on any sort of Kola champagne, Ting, Solo, Busta, Grace or any sorta drink from the Caribbean so on the menu and is pure Pepsi and Sprite ya seeing well boy dem naa ready yet so nuh bodda wid dem.
Observation two: If you walk into the place and is pure non-west indians in the place eating something wrong. They aint cooking authentic food, they cooking for delicate palates, they watering down the food and if you want the real experience of West Indian food that place is not for you. Actually same observation holds for any sort of so-called ethnic food. If you go in a Indian restaurant and aint see no Indians or a Chinese restaurant and aint see no Chinese break north son, break north.
Observation three: Never go into a West Indian restaurant if you are starving and want food in a hurry cause you will most likely die of hunger while waiting. I aint saying all the service always slow or bad all the time its just that its a gamble as to what the service is going t be like so don't press your luck thinking cause yesterday you got your meal in 5 minutes that today is going to be the same. Today you might be lucky to get your meal within 40 minutes.
Sometimes ya duz butt up on some screw face young waitress that really feel that she doing you a favor by taking your order and who vex cause she was busy doing nothing until you come in and wake her up and make her do work for her wages. She face set up , she hands a kimbo and she would like to chupse at ya but she know you might complain to the boss so instead she just giving you a lil cut eye. Naa ok I'm being a bit facetious but sometimes you just get the feeling that West Indian restaurants are not businesses that want your business. Like is as if you the customer begging a favor by buying food from them. Not all now is only some of them but is quite a few of the some of them if you follow me.
Observation number 4: Just like number three this one is about consistency but only in this time with regards to the food. Consistency! Not sure about this but is like at certain places the pot does have a different taste depending on what time of day or day in the week you go to a restaurant. Maybe the regular cook show up late or forget to add salt or add too much salt or whatever but sometimes you sit and wonder if the food you eating prepared by the same fella that cook yesterday.
Observation number 5: actually this is more like a rule. For the uninitiated a usual rule of thumb for me with West Indian restaurants is to first try the Jerk Chicken. My thoughts are if you cant get the Jerk Chicken right how am I supposed to trust you to do cook something more complex like curry goat, ox tail or stew chicken? I lie?
Anyway those were just some random rules and observations I felt to share today. Still through all the complaints and stuff I will still support anyone that can cook a good West Indian meal even though I may not understand the rationale behind some of those who run West Indian restaurants.
Actually though to be honest I think its all becoming clear to me because a few weeks ago I finally unearthed the secret doctrine of West Indian resturanteurs in Toronto and quite likely worldwide.
I went into one of my current favorites late one evening just before closing time. Nice friendly staff, cant really complain about the service and very authentic food. The staff was sorting me out with some curry goat when another customer came in wanting curry goat. Well sadly I had ordered the last of it as it was only about 15 minutes before closing so the other customer was out of luck. The customer was a little upset and her face start push up when the server started offering her some other eating options.
"We 'ave curry chicken left and it nice ya kno"
"But I really wanted some curry goat" she said
To which the server dropped the line which I personally feel is a major part of the West Indian restaurant mantra; "My lady is not about what you want its about what we 'ave."