Rojo, Guilt and Jo Jo's for Restaurant Week

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    Nov 28, 2013
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Rojo, Guilt and Jo Jo Photo by Gabrielle Williams

The busiest week for restaurants is now over. This year there were over 75 restaurants to choose from, spanning the three cities of Kingston, Ocho Rios and Montego Bay. Restaurants gained the opportunity to market their cuisines and signature dishes, while patrons capitalized on the chance to dine at significantly reduced prices.

With so many restaurants to choose from, I narrowed my selection to Kingston, assessed my budget, the categories and cuisines I would like to choose from and of course, took into consideration that I would like to try somewhere new.

Instantly, for the epicurean category, the menu for Rojo Restaurant at the Spanish Court Hotel looked unique and impressive with their entrée of Lobster Thermidor versus a common Grilled Lobster, as well as another option of Pan-Seared Sea Bass topped with mussell beignet compared to the cliché Grilled Snapper Fillet offered by other restaurants in that category. The fact that I have never been there before, unhesitatingly led me to book my reservation.

I then had to make one selection each from the savory and tasty categories. Seeing that I favour pasta dishes and often explore Japanese, Indian and Chinese cuisines, I was delighted to hear decent reviews of the newly relocated Guilt at Devon House. Afterall, it is owned by the distinguished Chef Colin Hylton. I had never been to their new location and as a Jamaican, sadly, we rarely go out to enjoy our very own authentic Jamaican or Caribbean fusion cuisines. I was diagnosed with tunnel vision for the savory category once I saw the Incredible deboned Oxtail Pasta on their menu. Then I had to quickly refocus on the tasty category and being a relatively healthy eater, I wanted to treat myself to the product of divine swine, so I also had my eyes on the Pork Tenderloin stuffed with smoked marlin and cream cheese wrapped with bacon on a bed of bacon caper sauce from Jo Jo's Jerk Pit and More.

My Restaurant Week kicked off with a couples night out at Rojo Restaurant last Wednesday. We were pleasantly greeted by the hostess at the entrance and seated immediately. Our waitress, Victoria greeted the table right away and issued the menus, poured us some water and gave us a few minutes to decide on our options. She returned in good time and took our orders. Within five minutes, bread was brought to the table followed soon after by our appetizers. The rotation after each course continued as such throughout the night like clockwork. Our glasses were topped up when necessary and we were asked occasionally if everything was alright. The service was exemplary and I had no complaints. 

The food was also superb. We all had the Smoked Duck Spring Roll, and rightfully so, the thinly sliced duck breast was the star of the dish and was on target with its moist texture. I ordered the Lobster Thermidor for my main course and the plating was on point, looking even better than the advertised pictorial. My lobster tail was quite meaty complemented well with a creamy brandy sauce that was rich in flavour. It was also served with soft, garlic-crushed potatoes. The rest of the dinner party enjoyed their Pan-Seared Sea Bass and Beef Filet Mignon. Though one member was not given his beef prepared rare as requested, he was still satisfied with the quality nonetheless.

All three dessert options were ordered by the table. My Crème Brûlée was a great way to finish my meal. The others basked in the likes of their Traditional Tiramasu and White Chocolate Cheesecake. Though the plating of the cheesecake was a bit too festive, that cheesecake admittedly is not the type you will find in a pastry shop or cafe. I tasted it and it is one of a kind.

The ambience was just suitable, as the raised pitch of persons talking at first was slightly distracting, but seeing that is not my area of expertise I do not think they can make changes to the acoustics or architecture of the room at this point. The seating however was extremely comfortable. 

Overall, though the servings could have been a bit bigger, Rojo Restaurant fulfilled its reputation for fine dining service and food quality.

Guilt was the ideal place for a date night last Friday, situated on a cool verandah in the historic, georgian style Devon House. The restaurant had a full house, but the hostess held her composure and politely greeted us and guided us to our table. The wait staff were not affected either and were obviously well trained, most uniformed in 'Top Shelf Professional Food and Beverage Service' shirts. Our orders were taken quickly and the appetisers and wine arrived within five minutes. My beau and I decided to enjoy a bottle of Chardonnay from the selection of premium Robert Mondavi wines promoted by Select Brands for Restaurant Week.

The Sweetcorn Bisque topped with smoked turkey and apple wood bacon was a burst of flavour upon tasting. Truly appetising. There was a slight delay before the entrée, but not to the point of irritability. We were allowed a little time to sip on chardonnay and chit chat. 

My Incredible deboned Oxtail Pasta was just that...incredible. It came with both the sauce for the oxtail and a creamy sauce for the pasta. Personally, I would rather a little less sauce to prevent the pasta from getting slightly soggy. However, the oxtail was tender and carmelized to perfection. 

My date got a heavy serving of Roasted filet of Basa and enjoyed the rich flavour of its sweet and sour tamarind sauce and tomato cranberry salsa. The dish was also served with rice flavoured with herbs and pomegranates, which I thought was unique.

The hostess checked on us throughout the night to ensure everything was alright and our dessert came out quickly after the entrée. I ordered the Old-Fashioned Sweet Potato Pudding and just expected plain, regular wedge shaped pudding. But I was pleasantly surprised with the plating and the round shaped pudding was topped with whipped cream. It was a warm, moist, top of the line Sweet Potato Pudding.

At the end of the night it was interesting to see an additional charge of 15% gratuity instead of 10%, however it was a lovely evening with good food and service so they received my full support.

he sooner Restaurant Week came, the faster it ended. It was already Saturday and the last day for a few of the girls and I to experience the discounted options that Jo Jo's Jerk Pit and More had to offer. The co-owner and hostess for the night, Mrs. Anna Chin was quite business-like with her greeting and we were directed to our seats. We were then in good hands with our waitress, Shelly who was pleasant and on point with taking our orders and getting our food to us in reasonable time. Jo Jo's is not a place you would expect an exotic ambience from, but it was a comfortable setting. It was also noticeable that they expanded their seating area to accommodate an expected full house for Restaurant Week.

I enjoyed my Clams and minced Pork in black bean sauce on beds of rice in clam shells. Unfortunately, the black been sauce overpowered the taste of the Clams and minced Pork, but I appreciated the flavour of the sauce.

The Pork Tenderloin stuffed with smoked marlin and cream cheese that I was looking forward to came in an extremely small serving compared to the other entrée dishes. But if the quality was good, I would not have been disappointed. Sadly when I dug in, I did not see or taste any evidence of smoked marlin or cream cheese. My friend said the same thing and hers had an empty hole in the middle. When we called the hostess over and asked her about it, she informed us that with the heat of the pork the cream cheese quickly melts in and the salmon was blended in with the pork. We acknowledged her explanation but we were not entirely convinced or satisfied with the result. The bacon became the star element of the dish instead of the marlin, and the pork tasted good, but searching for even the 'essence' of smoked marlin, there was no evidence of that. It certainly did not look like the dish displayed on the Restaurant Week website, I also noticed that the website stated the pork was stuffed with 'smoked marlin cream cheese sauce' versus the Restaurant Week excerpt in The Gleaner that stated the pork was stuffed with 'smoked marlin and cream cheese'. Restaurants should thus be more cautious with how they advertise or how they are advertised, as it can be perceived as slightly deceptive. Looking beyond that discrepancy, there could have been more cooked vegetables served with the dish but the bacon caper sauce and crispy potatoes were quite tasty.

The bread pudding and rich dark chocolate brownies were a delightful way to end the night. I will definitely return to Jo Jo's for a casual evening of dining.

After a year of a few unpleasant encounters at restaurants, I am elated to say that I chose wisely for Restaurant Week and enjoyed impeccable service and deliciously satisfying food with my friends. As restaurants continue to emerge, I am already enthusiastically looking forward to next year.

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