The chowdown was scheduled for Wednesday at 7. I was momentarily concerned that I would miss the Game 4 of the World Series, before I remembered that Jamaica Station is a sports bar, as well as a fine Jamaican restaurant.
Chowdowns are such fun. My friends and relatives, possibly concerned for my health and well-being, make me feel guilty for over-ordering. Not at a chowfest! The six of us ordered all ten of the eleven items on the menu. They were out of the fry chicken, ackee and salt fish, and the brown stew chicken, though the menu does note that all items may not be available to ensure freshness. I felt we did show some moderation in skipping the veggie platter:-)
Concerned that we would not have enough food, I asked them to prepare brown stew fish, a dish I had loved when I tasted it in the Bahamas and was hoping to rediscover. I had inquired whether they knew how to make it during my last visit to Jamaica Station. I was told that it wasnt on the menu, but would be made upon request.
Our menu consisted of :
Curry goat small pieces of dark flavorful goat meat in a mild yellow curry. The sweetness of the curry works well with the slight gameyness of the goat meat. The meat does have lots of bones, but the meat is so tender they dont get in the way.
Oxtail - mahogany brown oxtail slices in a rich, slightly sweet brown sauce. tender, but not especially interesting, flavor-wise. Or maybe I was just craving the spicy jerk chicken.
Jerk chicken - excellent. Unbreaded, fried chicken pieces well marinated in spicy jerk seasoning.
The chicken was not as hot as I remembered it, however I only got a few pieces and I think that this dish needs to be eaten in quantity to experience the full effect of the heat. Either that or they toned things down for us. Nonetheless, this is my favorite dish at JS.
Barbecue chicken - tender pieces of chicken in a sweet bbq sauce. tasty and well cooked.
Curry chicken - mild yellow curry (same as the goat) on sauteed chicken pieces. I thought this dish was sort of boring, mild curry on mild meat. The curry works much better with the goat.
Exovich (escovich) fish - whole fried fish in sauce. The waitress didnt know how it was made, but according to a web recipe, the sauce is made with vinegar and chilis. I didn't find it particularly spicy, but found the fish to be well seasoned and tasty. Possibly a bit on the salty side, although that may be my fault for taking a disproportionate share of the skin.
Steam fish and okra - the health food item. A whole steamed fish, I think the waitress said it was striped bass, topped with slivers of okra in a spicy sauce. The steamed fish was very tender and perfectly cooked. It would be even better topped it with fried skin.
Brown stew fish This was very different from the stew fish I had in the Bahamas, where it is a Saturday morning breakfast specialty. The JS stew fish was a whole fried fish, topped with peppers and onions, in a yellowish sauce, possibly made with sweet yellow peppers. It was ok, but I was disappointed that it wasnt more like the Bahamian version.
I tasted stew fish for the first time when I was in the Bahamas on a yoga retreat. I had spent a week doing yoga and sneaking around the ashrams strict vegetarian diet for conch fritters, lobster, grilled snapper, and Kalik beer. My taxi driver drove me around looking for stew fish on my way to the airport. The version he got me consisted of fried chunks of grouper in thick brown soup laced with peppers and onions. Lime and chili pepper were the condiments of choice and it came with a chunk of buttered Johnnycake.
Each of the Jamaica Station entress came with side dishes, so we these in abundance.
Fried plantains - not totally ripe, but not hard and green either. They werent as sweet like I like them, but were tasty and not greasy.
Rice and peas - red kidney beans mixed with moist short grained rice. Very enjoyable. Hot sauce would have livened it up a bit.
Biscuits small hard dense pieces of bread. Not so good. Johnnycake would have been better.
Each of us received an iceburg lettuce salad with french dressing at the beginning of the meal. Not bad, as these things go.
We washed it all down with lots of Red Stripe while we watched the Giants win. The place was a friendly and fun place to watch the game, especially since the good guys prevailed.
JAMAICA STATION BAR & GRILL
4929 Shattuck Avenue
Phone: (510) 597-1539
(near 51st, across Shattuck from Genova deli)