Restaurant Week Jamaica 2013 Choices

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    Nov 04, 2013
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Restaurant Week Jamaica 2013 Choices Photo by Gabrielle Williams

Its Food Month again and most importantly, Jamaica's 8th annual Restaurant Week is fastly approaching. SSCo Event Management and The Gleaner Company have joined forces again to present over 75 restaurants to choose from during the week of November 8th to 16th. Restaurant Week spans the three cities of Kingston, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, giving restaurants the opportunity to market their culinary expertise to diners at significantly reduced prices.

The majority of participating restaurants will offer a pre-selected three course dinner menu, while the others will offer lunch combos. The restaurants fall into 5 different categories according to their prices. Now with so many different restaurants, how do you choose? How do you know you will get value for your money? Everyone needs to first decide on their budget for restaurant week, then determine how many restaurants that budget can accommodate while also taking into consideration the categories and cuisines one would like to choose from. Persons should also use the opportunity to try somewhere new.

My previous Restaurant Week experiences have proven that all restaurants may not necessarily be offering a significantly discounted menu but still gain the perks of recognition for participating. 

The five categories under which the restaurants fall are Nyam & Scram (30% off), Tasty ($1700), Savoury ($2500), Delectable ($3600) and Epicurean ($4000). The prices do not include beverages, GCT nor gratuity charges.

The majority of restaurants in the Nyam & Scram category may unfortunately still leave patrons hungry and feeling they wasted their money. However I am happy to see that more restaurants have either joined the category or altered their menus from previous years to have patrons leave feeling satisfied. Afterall, one cannot expect half a panini to fill a void in the middle of a work day. So kudos to Chilitos Jamexican Restaurant, Jahva Cafe, Marchabella Bistro & Cafe, New Leaf Vegetarian, Uncorked, Susie's Bakery & Coffee Bar and Triple T'z Eatery.

Jahva Cafe is offering a few options, however the value lies in the flavoured frappuccino or milkshake and a muffin for $450, if one wants to stop by somewhere and treat themself to a quick snack at some point during the day on a weekend.

Marchabella Bistro & Cafe is offering four course combos and three course pasta combos at $1365 and $1470 respectively. This will suit persons that desire a salad, soup and desserts with their main course.

The crispy coconut fish fillet garnished with curried sauce, seasoned rice and tossed salad for $595 sounds like an excellent deal from Susie's Bakery & Coffee Bar. So does the seafood combo and pork with spinach risotto, both including soup and dessert for $1190 and $890 respectively at Triple T'z Eatery.

With regards to the Tasty category, JoJo's Jerk Pit and More, Gloria's and Pizza Hut (Dine In) are the places to go in Kingston, while June Plum at Mystic Ridge, Ocho Rios and G's Sports Bar and Grill as well as Chill Out Hut Restaurant and Grill in Montego Bay are the smart choices for the other two cities.

If one selects Gloria's though, during the week may be the best time to avoid the crowd. There will be a wait regardless, but the quality of food presented should be worth the wait and the money.

Pizza Hut -Dine In and JoJo's Jerk Pit and More will be excellent choices for a family night out. JoJo's pork tenderloin stuffed with smoked marlin creamy sauce and wrapped with bacon served with crispy roasted potatoes sounds appealing to the appetite.

For the savoury category, the redesigned and relocated Guilt is the front-runner in Kingston. If their incredible deboned oxtail pasta is as good as I've heard it is, coupled with the rustic ambience of Devon House, it will be worth it even without an appetizer and dessert.

South Beach Cafe, Gimbilyn Restaurant at Alhambra Inn, Dragon Court and Tamarind Indian Cuisine are good choices as well, all fairly consistent with quality. The coffee barbeque shrimp kebabs at Gimbilyn sounds like one to look forward to.

Cuddyz will offer a delightful pan seared salmon with sweet potato mash. But for a sports bar and restaurant frequently visited by many, nobody usually pays $2500 without beverages at Cuddyz. I think they are in the wrong category.

689 By Brian Lumley and The Pantry Dinner Theatre are also places to consider, keeping in mind there will be a risk. The Pantry Dinner Theatre will be offering dinner, and a show, 'The Peculiar People'. Now, that sounds unique and interesting. But the show does not have well recognized actors and could be a disappointing act or plot resulting in a bad date night. However, if the show is humorous and enjoyable, complemented by succulent jerk pork loin chops, date night will be a success giving the gentlemen props for a good choice.

The quality of food has improved at 689 since its opening night. The lobster spaghettini options on the menu are delightful and the spare ribs have a reputation of being quite tasty. Now this restaurant's offer is the epitome of what Restaurant week stands for, being a new restaurant looking to market its cuisines and offering a highly discounted menu. However, for the gentlemen, I wouldn't recommend 689 for a first date, unless you are really good with conversation. The wait is still too long for food to arrive at the table and a high influx of diners are expected. Also, a menu with an option of two lobster dishes may result in small servings, something which the restaurant has already been criticized for with regards to their meals in general. 689 as an option is a risk but perhaps if persons go for an early dinner on a week day it may be a fulfilling experience.

I must also advise persons to be cautious of Restaurant Cocorro's menu. As a patron, I couldn't help but notice that there is no discount offered. For instance, their teriyaki chicken entrée costs $1290, miso soup, $280 and tempura ice cream,$650, totalling $2220. These items amongst others are offered on their Restaurant week menu. 

Ocean's 11 and Bamboo Blu, Ocho Rios, as well as Pelican Grill and Seahorse Grill in Montego Bay are great choices. The Pelican Grill in particular, has a reputation for excellent service and food. Their grilled fillet steak paired with lobster thermidor should be a treat.

Climbing the ladder, the delectable category in Kingston seems to be just average this year. Perhaps new restaurants need to emerge for this category. The menus for Majestic Sushi and Grill and Caffe da Vince look enjoyable and the prices are significantly reduced. Keep in mind Majestic's service tends to deteriorate with large parties. I went to Whitebones Seafood Restaurant for Restaurant week last year and the appetizers were presented in small servings. The grilled lobster was unusually overcooked, perhaps because of the crowd and the fact that it was a Friday night. However the Alaskan king crab is an excellent option and their bread pudding is moist and scrumptuous.

The ever pleasing Houseboat Grill in Montego Bay has competition this year with Calypso at Seawind Beach Club. Houseboat's caesar salad is one of the best on the island and the ambience of the calm waters of the Montego Bay Marine Park Fish Sanctuary is legendary. However the entrées on the menu for Calypso are hard to choose from and that is a good thing, ranging from a Chilean seabass to a lobster tail in rundown sauce to a Black Angus rib eye. As a resident in Kingston, I am officially jealous, calling out to Morgan's Harbour Restaurant on the Port Royal waterfront with rustic, authentic historical ruins as part of its atmosphere to utilise its full potential.

The few restaurants listed in the epicurean category are a true reflection of the need for more fine dining restaurants in Jamaica. Rojo Restaurant at the Spanish Court Hotel is my choice for Kingston this year. Their menu options give diners the opportunity to expand their palettes. Their pan-seared sea bass topped with mussel beignet is a perfect example compared to the cliché grilled snapper fillet offered by Strawberry Hill and Terra Nova. Their desserts are on another level as well. I must however compliment Strawberry Hill for having a vegetarian friendly menu.

Marguerites is the front runner for Montego Bay with its premium location along the water's edge of Montego Bay's 'Hip Strip'. It is well known for its fresh seafood but they have decided to break the monotony with an enticing pork tenderloin wellington with lobster mousseline and breadfruit potato salad. The only disappointment is that one of their appetizers, the Beggar's purse will contain a simple filling of spicy chicken and cheese versus something more epicurean such as escargot. 

The other restaurants in Montego Bay have not come close to Marguerites to offer an epicurean menu or much to salivate over and I am afraid the ambience will not fill the void either.

So there you have it foodies, I encourage you all to choose wisely and support our restaurants during November 8th to 16th, adapting to the appropriate theme this year, 'Raise a Fork and Lift the City'.

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