My whole life food has always told a story. It tells us who cooked it, where it grew up and why it’s perfectly paired with the drinks consumed and the people who are eating it. We all have such pride in our native foods and the richness of a country can be tied back to it’s lush lands and ability to produce food. The temperature, climate and soil conditions unique to an area helps dictate what can be produced and from there it dictates the national dishes of a people.
Being a 1st generation Canadian via Trinidad + Tobago, I understand this point to be very evident in the Caribbean culture. Within the Caribbean there are at least 28 island nations and more than 7,000 individual islands all representing slight tweaks on culture, language and food based on the islands specific history and terroir. My ear can hear the difference between the music, the accents and I can taste the differences in the food.
Recently I went to Jamaica for the first time and as usual my only request was to eat a national dish and somewhere authentic. I got the “real deal”, the authentic flavour and got to see the person behind making the “pot bubble”. This food story, was in the back of my mind when I went to experience new restaurant Chubby’s Jamaican Kitchen. This restaurant opened to a lot of conversation about authenticity, use of cultural language and location (downtown Toronto off King West). At first I wondered internally, “do I need another Jamaican restaurant?” Why should I drive downtown for food, that in theory I can get 10 minutes from my uptown address?
Well to answer that in one word: JOY. This restaurant whisked me away to a familiar island experience with decorative seating, light coloured walls, palm trees everywhere and light music in the background. I’ve been blessed to travel throughout the Caribbean over my life since birth and I take my connection to this region seriously (Trinidad + Tobago, Antigua, Grenada, Bahamas, St Lucia, Jamaica, St Thomas, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Grand Cayman, Barbados…are just a few I’ve visited).
Any Ontario based restaurant that can make me smile from a place of personal Caribbean memories is a restaurant I can clap my hands to. The Customer Service was great and I also enjoyed the fact I could watch the chefs cooking behind the wood planks. At one point, I’m sure I started singing the Jamaican national anthem lol.
The menu was full bodied so we started with the “likkle patties” and the ackee bites. I don’t salivate over ackee like many others because I never quite “got it” but this time…..I finally understood – ackee is delish!
The Drinks were heaven in a glass. The rum punch is “on tap” and the sorrel was not overrun with ginger nor was it too sweet. The colour, consistency and aroma was just the way I like it so by the time my main dish arrived I was already giving Chubby’s a standing O.
The Main Dish. One of the things I’m big on, is finding healthy ways to adjust traditional foods in this era of allergies and food intolerance. I enjoy jerk chicken but haven’t eaten Rice and Peas in years, so when I discovered Chubby’s offered Quinoa and Peas…..I put on a choir robe and sang Hallelujah! My friend had the Shrimp wraps and the toppings included shredded toasted coconut and the wrap was lettuce – so another score for healthy options. We were going for a dessert but honestly…..we were so satisfied at this point, we promised to come back and start with dessert first!
So instead of dessert we did what we always do and finished off with tea. My friend got the Ginger and Turmeric Latte and I got the Island Chai. My tea smelled like Christmas Ham in the oven (the cloves lol) and the Latte had this adorable pineapple on it that made me wish i drank coffee 🙂
Before leaving and giving Chubby’s an A+ I had to go upstairs and have a good look at the rest of the decor…..it was such a great balance of history, culture, modern design and familiar colour palettes. I honestly asked if I could move in!
So in terms of Food culture, dishes that come from the story of a nation (seriously look up how the Maroons started preserving meat with spices which eventually became Jerk Chicken) and triggering feelings of connection, Chubby’s is a spectacular space to have lunch or dinner and I look forward to new food stories this restaurant will tell.
Chubby’s Jamaican Kitchen: 104 Portland St – 11:30am – 10:00pm
~ Dionne xo