One of my favourite memories of New York was when Nrinder, my lovely host, took me to a hole-in-the-wall Caribbean restaurant called Taste of the Islands. I don’t have a hope in hell of finding it again, much less telling you where it is, but I know that it’s within a few blocks of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, there’s no sign outside, and I probably would have walked right by it had Nrinder not gone inside.
The main floor kitchen did a brisk take-out business, and the barely-there second floor (I had to duck up there, and I’m barely five feet tall) seated six people with their knees at their chests, elbow-to-elbow. I’ve never had such amazing jerk anything before (I had chicken, Nrinder had tofu) – not too spicy, with great depth of flavour. Throw in some plantain chips and a ginger beer, and I was smiling for the rest of the day.
While nothing in Vancouver will ever quite match that experience, I’m happy to say that you can get excellent Caribbean food at The Reef Restaurant. If you click on the Vancouver site and watch the video, you’ll get an idea of how much love and life is in the people and food. I love that they interview Paulette Wedderburn and that she cooks with love. Love. It.
I usually go there for brunch or lunch, and they serve breakfast until 3pm. Some of the house specialties include homemade jerk chicken sausage, roti, plantain chips, and my favourite, ackee and salt cod. I’ll have to do a post about salt cod sometime: aside from being a bit of a cultural curiosity (it figures into Portuguese, Caribbean and Chinese-Indonesian cuisine), it’s also rather tasty.
There’s homemade hot sauce at each table, and it looks so demure and innocent. Don’t be fooled. I’ve got a pretty good tolerance for spicy food, and I treat this stuff with the utmost respect.
And oh! They make an amazing little drink called the Dark & Stormy (or Fog and Toasty, as my old roommate called it once). Gosling’s dark rum, spicy ginger beer, a twist of lime, and lots of ice. So delicious, and a perfectly refreshing complement to the food.
The Reef Restaurant (2 locations in Vancouver, 1 in Victoria)
4172 Main St
1018 Commercial Drive