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Monday, June 18, 2007

Ortanique is Quite Irie

Perhaps there would be hope for British cuisine if you took into account the cuisines of those countries that they colonized, such as the Jamaicans.

Jamaicans take great pride in their indigenous Taino roots, as well as an eclectic culture that is united by uplifting music, and a sensual landscape, containing a bounty of edible resources. Premium coffee, sugar, callaloo, ackee, sorrel, mangos, pineapple, coconuts and of course, herbs, flourish there.

As far as I know, Ortanique, a family run Jamaican restaurant in the docile village of West Cambridge, is the only place in the area that serves home made sorrel drink. This highly anti-oxidant beverage, made from dried sorrel leaves, is packed with zesty fresh ginger that will clean out your system, making it the perfect hangover cure.

I'm a firm believer that every culture has its own dumpling, and the Jamaican beef patties are a delicious and snacky variety. I've had callaloo and lobster patties made to order at Niah's hut on the beach in Negril.

I recommend trying the eskoveitch, or escabache fish, one of my favorite Jamaican dishes. Eskoveitch refers to sauce that the fish, usually snapper or tilapia, is prepared with. Its key ingredients are lime juice, vinegar, scotch bonnet peppers, onion, carrots, and allspice. The fish tasted fresh and had the perfect balance of acid and flavor. I had to pause for a moment of reflection over the perfectly cooked and buttery cabbage that was on my plate.

If you go to Ortanique expect a modest, but charming space with communal tables and copies of Saveur to browse through while you wait for your food. Prepare to be won over by the homegrown hospitality from owner Leon, who is never to busy to check in and see how you are doing. Expect ridiculously good value for money which makes me feel like I am wasting money by NOT eating there. Just one warning, they are closed on Sundays and Mondays, so don't set yourself up for disappointment.

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