Country 076 – Antigua and Barbuda (Chubby’s Jamaican Kitchen)

Chubby's Jamaican KitchenLocation: 104 Portland Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://chubbysjamaican.com/

No, technically Chubby’s doesn’t qualify as a restaurant from Antigua and Barbuda.  It’s Jamaican.  It’s right there in the name.

But there are a bunch of tiny Caribbean countries, and for the purposes of this blog, compromises are going to have to be made.  Jamaican cuisine is probably going to stand in for pretty much every country in that area, because Jamaican restaurants are everywhere.  The rest of the Caribbean?  Not so much.

Chubby's Jamaican Kitchen

Chubby’s is a bit of an odd one.  It’s a far cry from the typical hole-in-the-wall Jamaican place you’re expecting, with a twee, hipster-friendly dining room that looks like it’s been scientifically engineered for social media appeal (and indeed, if you look up the restaurant on Instagram, there are far more twenty-somethings taking selfies than pictures of the food).

I was worried that the food might be an afterthought, but I tried a couple of things and they were both great.

Chubby's Jamaican Kitchen

First up: the saltfish fritters, which are lightly crispy on the outside, with a chewy texture that’s reminiscent of glutinous rice.  True to its name it’s both salty and fishy, but not excessively so; it’s nicely balanced.  The strong flavours are complimented well by the mango-lime-papaya salsa, which is sweet and surprisingly spicy.

Chubby's Jamaican Kitchen

I also tried the curry goat, which features a generous amount of fall-off-the-bone tender meat in a fragrant curry sauce.  It comes with a side of rice and a small helping of sugary-sweet mango chutney.  The chutney seems way too sweet at first, but it kind of has the same appeal as eating cranberry sauce with turkey.  It grew on me.

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Country 012 – Jamaica (Mr. Jerk)

jerk
Location
: 3417 Derry Road East, Mississauga
Websitehttp://www.mrjerk.com/

I realized recently that though I’ve had jerk chicken quite a few times, I’ve never tried jerk pork. One quick “best jerk pork” search later, and I was off to the races.

I was pretty sure I was going to like this. I like jerk chicken, and I like pork, so unless they messed it up somehow, this was probably about as close to a sure thing as I was going to get for this blog.

They didn’t mess it up.

Actually, what’s the absolute polar opposite of messing something up? Messing something down? Because that’s what they did here. They messed this pork the hell down.

You know that scene in a movie where they give food to someone who hasn’t eaten in days, and he immediately starts shoveling it into his mouth with a speed and vigour that seems unwise? That was me eating this pork.

I took one bite, paused, and thought to myself, “wait, is this really that good?” I took another bite to confirm: yes, it really is that good. Then I was like a hungry grizzly bear, or like Garfield eating lasagna, or like I was worried that I’d wake up at any moment and discover that it was all just a dream.

Man, it was good. Unctuously tender, seriously flavourful, and gloriously, richly porky in all the best ways, it’s ample proof that sometimes the simplest things are the best.

It’s served on rice, which is nicely seasoned and studded with creamy, flavourful beans.  It compliments the pork really well.

It wasn’t particularly spicy (I’d put it somewhere between mild and medium spice); I thought this was a fault at first. I like spicy food, and jerk and spice seemingly go hand-in-hand. But just like I wouldn’t tell Picasso what colours he should use in a painting, I’m not going to tell Mr. Jerk how spicy their pork should be. It was perfect the way it was; why mess with that?

And a lack of spiciness definitely doesn’t equate to a lack of flavour; the jerk spices are assertive enough to pack a punch, but they never overwhelm the pork’s natural flavours. The contrast between the lightly crispy, intensely flavourful exterior and the juicy, tender pork is crack-like in its addictiveness.

I should admit, however, that I think really well-prepared fatty pork is one of the best things on the planet (exhibit A: my over-the-top hyperbole about the pork hocks at Beast), so you might try this and think “what’s he going on about?”

It’s also very possible that this was a one-time-only deal — some kind of perfect storm of deliciousness that can’t be repeated — and that it’ll never be this good again. Because how could it be? I hope it is, but seriously: can this really be this good all the time?  

Mr. Jerk - the restaurant Mr. Jerk - the jerk pork