Jamaican Caribbean Cuisine in Roseville – Heavy Table
PHOTOGRAPHS BY KARIIM CHARLIER / HEAVY TABLE
One look at the Jamaican Caribbean cuisine menu of two months in Roseville and I was wowed. Cow’s foot soup? Salt fish and liver for breakfast? Peanut Punch? I knew I would have a hard time restraining myself when ordering, and that fully satisfying my curiosity would require several trips. What I finally did. And after three visits, it’s clear that JCC has enough interesting, tasty, and unique options to warrant your attention and patronage.
At first glance, the JCC website may leave you a little confused. On my first visit I had planned to show up early for some of the intriguing breakfast options (combination of porridge, ackee and saltfish, liver), but the hours on the website listed an opening time of 11am and a quick call around 9am went unanswered. . Again, some of the menu options are labeled for breakfast only and say you must order before noon. I don’t know which branch of the multiverse serves breakfast from 11am-12pm, but it’s not the one I’m currently in. The restaurant may be planning to open earlier in the future, and in fact some of their marketing materials to the restaurant state opening hours as 8am, but for now you should ignore the breakfast section of the online menu. This is not the only section of the online menu that cannot be entirely relied upon. During all my visits, natural juices were completely or partially unavailable.
There are a few issues in service logistics that seem to be resolving, but are not completely resolved. An 11 o’clock order of jerk wings and cow’s foot soup seemed to surprise everyone. The soup wouldn’t be ready until the afternoon, and with only one other customer in the restaurant, the only thing that came out of the kitchen for 30 minutes was a loud, persistent banging sound that sounded like someone had burned their brownies and did her best to get the charred bits out of the pan onto the counter. The wings finally arrived lukewarm, soft-skinned, and tossed in a thick sauce that was more sweet than spicy. The cook on them probably would have been better another time, but that sauce is not what I expected from jerk chicken. Indeed, the jerk chicken on the menu looks completely different (and better than) the flip wings. They were still wings, so clearly I ate them all. But I wasn’t too happy about it.
A separate web order in the early afternoon turned into a phone order as the online portal was not yet working, and although the system had started working on the third visit, a 1 p.m. order placed online at 11:30 a.m. was not ready until about 1:20 p.m. . On-site dining is limited to a handful of square platters, and even restaurant orders are packed in polystyrene containers.
That said, there are compelling reasons why you should brave the service and logistical issues as JCC works slowly to eat their food. The cow’s foot soup, once I returned for it in the afternoon, had exactly the kind of gelatinous, sticky power that patiently simmered fat and sinew trotters should have. As I sipped, I thought back to the late years when I cooked in Fergus Henderson’s restaurant. End to end. One of the book’s brilliant recipes for what Henderson calls Trotter Gear calls for large, bubbling tubs of pig’s feet, chilled in a jelly and used modestly to enhance the flavor of everything from sauces to vegetables. I saved half my order of large soup, refrigerated it, and woke up the next morning with the same shaky texture I had worked so hard to create. I used a spoon that day to sauté kale, to finish a pot of beans, and as a base for pasta sauce. This cow’s foot soup is liquid gold. I’ll be back to refuel. JCC offers daily soup specials along with other enticing options like Goat Head (Friday) and Red Peas (Saturday), all of which now have my attention.
Of the list with salted mackerel, escovitch, calaloo and salty, the first stood out, but none were disappointed. The stew of sweet coconut milk, salted fish and hearty root vegetables was quite satisfying (watch out for some scales). The accompanying starches (boiled ravioli, fried ravioli, festival) were not my cup of tea. These are extremely thick and dense flour and cornmeal versions, and without a substantial broth to mop up, they didn’t have much of a role in any of these plates. Swimming in daily soups makes more sense. And while I was enjoying the oxtail, the star of this dish was the perfectly cooked butter beans that had slowly absorbed the broth, and of which I had way too little. I would have swapped at least half of the accompanying rice and peas for more of those beans.
On my last visit I had the chance to try Sorrel Ginger (above with oxtail) and Irish Moss drinks. Sorrel juice is not made from the leafy green, but rather from dried hibiscus. And if you’ve ever had a Jamaican agua fresca, then you’ll have an idea of what this drink is. But just a sense, since compared to agua fresca, JCC’s version brings warm winter spices (cloves, allspice) and a stickiness that makes it more of a drink to sip on than something that washes grease away. a taco. In fact, it had such intense flavor that I decided to have it over ice, which made me realize two things: 1) I really like sorrel and ginger juice, and 2 ) would be amazing with alcohol. A Moscow Mule replacing part of the ginger beer with this? Yes.
Irish Moss was completely new to me. The owner asked me if I wanted to try a sample, noting that it was said to have male enhancement properties in the Caribbean. Not dealing with the shade I just cast on my manhood, I happily agreed. Sea moss is a red algae whose natural thickening properties show in the texture of the drink which is almost more like a pudding than a liquid. Combined with condensed milk, spices and vanilla, it’s a tasty treat that my 11 year old son said was similar to eggnog. Its reputation as an aphrodisiac can apparently be attributed to its high levels of zinc, but that makes perfect sense because I had an Irish friend who had, like, nine siblings. Also, my 6 year old immediately crushed one of his Avengers toys after drinking it. And that’s about the level of evidence you’ll need to be convinced in order to believe in the aphrodisiac effect of Irish moss. I found it too thick to drink much on its own, but it was the perfect thickness to pour over a delicious piece of sorrel cake that appeared near the cash register when I was paying.
Overall, there are more hits than misses on the menu, and at least on my small sample of visits, that ratio seems to be leaning more and more towards hits as the kitchen works through some of its growing pains. These growing pains can lead to some inconsistency in service, but if you’re unlucky and have nothing less than a great experience, go back and try again. You’ll probably want to do this anyway after the completely charming and kind owner talks to you at checkout. The Twin Cities lack Caribbean food, and Jamaican Caribbean cuisine can hopefully help fill that void for many years to come.
Caribbean Jamaican Cuisine1237 Surveyor Avenue West, Roseville, Minnesota, 651.340.1185, MON-SAT 11am-9pm, SUN 12pm-8pm