Tuesday, July 11, 2006

West Indian Restaurants

(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.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingWest 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.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingOr 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."


Campfyah said...

Good lawd ah mercy chile, yuh nuh rite atall....so true and good observations, I can surely relate tuh Observation #5.

I went into a Trini restaurant in Bklyn to get me a roti. The girl at de counter face did all wring up, I said in a nice friendly way, fuh she tuh smile, she look at me and tell me dat she doan smile, dat she face always vex so...
well yuh know she or de business din getting muh roti money nuh more.

FuzzyJefe said...

Bwoy, mi side a hurt mi fi laugh so hard! A no lie yu a tell.

You can add one more observation: if they actually serve everything on the menu, it's not a true West Indian restaurant!

Dr. D. said...

JDiddy, on my most recent trip to Florida, went to one wid a bredrin and de two o we did well raw to rahtid!

Likkle waitress (never did look too bad, full out jeans well) comes over to tek order, but she face well screw up. So we start sweet she up and tell her if she nice to us we come pick her up after she get off work! To which she replies...."Where onoo carrying me?"

Anyway, we seh we each want a cuppa red peas soup....wid pigstail of course, as the appetizer! I want a regula size curry chicken amd mi bredrin want a regula size curry goat. (The large did look large nuh rass! Could easily feed two hungry belly man.) Hear our girl...."Is better me tell onoo what we have leave cause the chef stop work fe de day! We only have few peice o fry chicken, some stew beef and oxtail. Soup done! No rice and peas...only white rice!" Of couse, me and me bredrin cuss some bumboclaat and flash de scene and found anodda spot not too far away where we got what we wanted.

I often wonder how some of them with the 'hattitude' stay in business......beats me? Isn't a restaurant a service oriented business?

And BTW, I would say that in addition to Jerk Chicken, if dem can't get stew peas/red peas soup right, dem not ready either!

Maybe I shudda blog about my patty adventure when I was in London in '98!

memer said...

Unfortunately, I have to agree with a lot of your observations, I've made similar to myself over the years. I still hold out one day for a real "white tablecloth" West-Indian fine dining experience. It will happen one day.

In the meantime, what do you think about this "Sunshine" chain spreading about? Dem a chaarge too much, fi tru.

~b*b~ said...

ok, so we ain't calling names, but there used to be this place on yonge that i would call, "nice n' not-what-i ordered" because they would just give you whatever they had, regardless!

Honest said...

Dude you ain't nevah lied. This is a trend everywhere not just in T Dot. It's the same in Brooklyn and the DC area. Unless you go to a more upscale place where you're going to pay $15 to $20 or more for an entree you'll get iffy service. Thing is some people are great cooks and they're talked into opening a restuarant but it's not just cooking great food that keeps a place going. Customer Service is key!

Abeni said...

Lol,gotta luv is not what you want but what we have.

Ravenbajan said...

OH Jdid!!! Look man, you've gone and made me hungry.

I don't know if you had ever heard of it, but there was an AMAZING restaurant in Oshawa (closed now unfortunately). It was called "Barbados North" and it was well worth the drive. Small, but the food was sweet. Flying fish, Peas & Rice and Mac Pie to die for. My hubby's favorite was their Drunken Chicken Wings. (Marinated in Mount Gay).

Anyhow, my experience in West Indian restaurants in Scarborough has always been interesting. They look at me and see this little white girl and try to warn me that the food is hotter than my meager palate can handle. I have to tell them, look man... I'm white and sound Canadian but my taste buds are West Indian bred through and through!

Luke Cage said...

What the hell J??? I cosign with ravenbajan, my stomach turning all into a knot and all dawg. I'm still at the work place and just coming back from the gym. You gotta love the blogosphere. Just when you think you're alone in something, bang. Someone comes along and has experienced the same damn thing! I love this:

"Same way I aint want to big up no specific place cause nobody aint give Jdid money to mention their name on my blog."

LOL- no free press J! I hear ya man. I miss West Indian cuisine. Not many in my corner of Va, but I will tell you that when you come across one, this better not happen!:

"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" -LMAO!!!

Burke said...

I'm glad I decided to read your blog during lunch if not my mouth would have been watering with all this food talk! You are so right about everything you said; I was just telling a friend the other day about this so-called Jamaican restaurant I went to a few years ago that I heard about on a local West Indian radio station, and they were broadcasting live from there. I decided to stop by and check out the place, and buy a shrimp roti and some rice & peas and jerk chicken.

Talk 'bout bad tasting food! The roti had big chunks of potato with the skin on it, and no sign of curry. Boy I was so vex. It was my fault, 'cause I should know that if a Jamaican restaurant selling roti, something gotta be wrong 'cause I don't think Jamaicans known fuh making roti.

They couldn't even get the rice & peas and jerk chicken right.

Sunshine said...

Hi Jdid-LOL! I throughly enjoyed this post. All of your observations true, true.

Quirky Creativity said...

LOL!! I too had an experience at a W.I Restaurant on the "Longest street in the world".

We entered the empty establishment, and walked up to the "occupied" cashier, and were quickly organized ourselves so we could place our order once she was done doing whatever she was doing , when all of a sudden, this next dude fully walked in and yelled over us...
"I'll have a curry goat"!! The cashier fully processed the order as tho we werent there!

We asked her, why she would be so inconsiderate to fully ignore us like that... She quickly yelled...

"Stceeeeuuuups!! he knew what he wanted"!!

We then told her were were leaving.. and as we were walking out.... she quarrelled after us..

"You tink I CARE whether you stay or GO????? GWAN!!!!"

LOL geeez. Needless to say, i havent been back since!

And i've heard similar stories to that effect with that same place, from different people!!

A little Biz' ettiqutte people!!

Anonymous said...

that last line - boy pure jokes! you hit everything on the mark.

whole wheat bakes? they gotta be kidding! my mom tried that once - it didn't last!

isn't it true though - it seems service is horrible in A LOT of west indian places and the cashier does always seem to have a problem. specially me NOT speaking/really understanding patois and not being jamaican - when i ask a question about the food - it's like they're laughing just a bit at me.

one thing you didn't mention - and this is coming from a Canadian born girl, with parents from St. Vincent.
i learned quickly that when you walk into a west indian restaurant (not the fancy ones - just the regular neighbourhood ones), that you have to mark right away, who's in line and who you are after to order. too many times i'd walk in, stand patiently in line, only to have some guy just come and order ahead of me!
I was at afrofest this weekend, and i went to a booth to buy panketto (sweet fry dumpling)- i saw a white couple standing, appearing to peruse the menu and so i stood nearer to the counter. then a 2nd black couple came and stood directly in front of the other couple, adjacent to me - i then realised the white couple actually wanted to order so i spoke up and asked are you in line and told them to move ahead, then i'm next. the black couple obliged, but when the white couple moved up, i told them they gotta speak up or they'd never get anything ordered!

Anonymous said...

i'm not 'anonymous'. the post above is me ;-)

brooklyn babe said...

That was so wrong of you do that to me, dis early pun a morn... I just had my cereal, and that does not compare!
I want some of that!

SP said...

LOL! Thanks for the tips. Being a non-west indian myself, I'll have to keep these in mind. I do know what rice n peas are. ;o)

Scratchie said...

Definitely West Indian...only a West Indian would deal with their customers that way. Sounds just like home.

dorna! said...

I too have had a meatless Tdot roti. Plenty bone, sharp broken bits, and plenty potato; but no chicken. Can we say lacerations? Yes I think we can. :D

smallislandgirl said...

jdid this is such a hilarious post... you are so right on every point this is the best thing i have read for the whole day goin to read it again....

Mad Bull said...

Down in Ft. Lauderdale they have this upscale place, I think Bahamas was in the name, and they had the service and the taste. Also there was this Cuban(?) chain, Pollo Tropico, wicked food! There were a few Yardie places that I went to in Miramar, my favourite was Sangos, the service and the food were excellent even if the decor could have used a help.

Dr. D. said...

MB is correct, Sango's is good.

bakannal time said...

No beers on a friday nite?!!! dats like no bible in a church, no corruption in politics, no guyanese in de west indies team... doan leh we go deh.

Miz JJ said...

lmao @ whole wheat bakes. Why did my mom try to pass those off to our family one day? We all ate the salt fish without the bake that day. Sad, sad day.

I haven't found any great West Indian restaurants in Toronto. I'll have to e-mail you for your favorites.

Shotta M said...

Couldn't have said it better; though where I am at I don't need a guide because I have yet to find a West Indian restaurant.

Ri said...

Now you done made me hooooongrey.

Stunner said...

Yes dem observations are true especially the water-down menu one, oh so true. I would neva go into a "west indian restaurant" with no west indian people eating no nasty imitation.

Bwoy that jerk chicken and those fried ripe platains deh look soo yummy! Now I'm hungry!

ShellyP said...

My absolute favorite West Indian restaurant in Toronto is Wong's. They do Jamaican and Chinese cuisine and both are awesome! I used to live across the street and would go there quite a bit. Whenever I visit that's about the only place I eat. They are consistently good. As far as your observations go, the restaurant itself is far from pretentious, lots of West Indians eat there, the food never takes too long to come out, the food is pretty consistent, and the jerk chicken is good too. If you decide to try them let me know what your experience is like.
(Wong's Restaurant, 930 Bathurst Street, a few blocks north of Bathurst Stn )

Guyana-Gyal said...

When me go a foreign, my family over there only cook 'back home' food, they even know all the supermarkets that stock the necessary ingredients.

My brother in England cooks 'back home' food too. Sometimes he emails to ask for the odd recipe.

Guyana-Gyal said...

Oh, what me was trying to say is that when me go a foreign, me don't really miss the food cause the family cook it same as always.

Lene said...

hahahahhaha. best post ever! i want to post this on my blog on myspace.

the worse places in scarborough used to be don a you's. that was the duttiest place ever! i swear the chicken was left until it was sold, over a few days. plus, you ask for stew chicken gravy pon de rice, and they put some damn oil. who can eat oil up rice?

sunrise is trash now too. that place used to be good when it was smaller. the love used to be in the food. now, its the place where white ppl can order their food on time. *chupse*

i love gramps on eglinton near markham. i need to find a roti place now though...

Anonymous said...

If your looking for a roti place that is pretty good...try "Trinidad" on the Danforth (at Dawes). They have got some great food there but beware it is take-out only. Oh, adn their doubles are as good as any that you will get from the doubles man in Trinidad...

Now, if you all think you get some bad service try Hamilton .... everyplace is a dive & there is not one restaurant that we want to actually sit down in to eat. It's as though someone was sitting around one day and decided to open up a restaurant for some spare cash. Never mind the fact that he has no coking skills and only knows maybe 3 recipes...You go up to the counter and order your food and eventually you will find something that they actually have. Then wait an hour, get told that they don't have 3 of the 4 things that you ordered, get your spuse to pull the menu off of your hand as it is stuck...and then they screw up the order adn give the spicy food to the other person because good god.....the white person cannot eat something that damn spicy.

Also, there is a place in Brooklyn that has some real kickass food...it's called "Bakes & Tings"....again this is a take-out place but the food is well worth it and you don't get no attitude with the service...and they always have plenty of everything...unless it's an item that is on the menu on a specific day.

Taylor Parker said...

My husband and I have been wanting to find a really fancy date night restaurant in oshawa . We go there every few weeks, both of us for business, and we figure, that since we are in the city anyways, we might as well take advantage of the scenery and the culture. We haven't found a really great restaurant that both of us like yet. Are there any good suggestions of where we can eat? We want a light and happy atmosphere, and really good food. As silly as this sounds, my husband and I love eating. We love trying out new foods, and we love learning about the different foods that different cultures eat. It's been a really awesome hobby for both of us and we love that!

Jdid said...

@taylor . not really that familiar with Oshawa scene but there is a nice caribbean place at kingston rd and brock on the north east side that I went to a couple of years ago and I also believe that Island Mix which is somewhere near Brock and bayly has good food and music on the weekends. hope that helps