I’m frequently asked how I choose restaurants to be reviewed, the answer being that there are a number of methods. With Jammin’ Jerk Hut, I followed my nose.
I discovered Jammin’ Jerk Hut, you see, on a trip to review the late, lamented Flava Flav’s House of Flavor, which had been next door. I didn’t find much flavor at the hip-hopper’s restaurant, but upon exiting was enveloped by a cloud of wonderful aromas emanating from a grill in front of the Jammin’ Jerk Hut. Since it’s tucked away in the back of an L-shaped shopping center that doesn’t have much in the front, I doubt I’d ever have found it if not for that smoke.
So a return visit was in order. This time, no smoke, so I don’t know if that was a one-time thing or not. We also discovered that, like Flava Flav’s place, some of the things on the menu weren’t available. What was, however, were the things that most carry the ring of authenticity.
Like the oxtails ($12.99). This hadn’t been one of our original choices, but told that the jerk ribs weren’t available and the oxtails were awfully good, we bit. And indeed they were, gently seasoned and slowly braised to the crucial state of ultra-tenderness.
Jammin’ Jerk Chicken ($10.99) was billed as a signature dish, and indeed I can’t imagine dining in a Jamaican restaurant without trying it. But there is an inherent pitfall there, in that this dish has been so co-opted by restaurants across the American culinary spectrum that I’m sure one of these days I’ll walk into a Norwegian or Albanian place and they’ll be serving their own take on jerk chicken. And many of those who have created those versions don’t understand nuance, making the chicken very spicy but not well-seasoned.
No problem here. The seasoning was subtle but very characteristic, balancing warm-flavored spices such as cinnamon and allspice with hot pepper and a jot of citrus. As was the case with the oxtails, the meat fell easily from the bones as we gently nibbled away.
Similar was the Curry Chicken ($10.99), another gently seasoned dish, this one leaning more to the warmer spices.
With them we were each served a huge mound of nicely seasoned stew peas (and some green peas) and rice, and a smaller pile of fresh mixed lettuces, with cups of a creamy-Italian dressing on the side.
We also had an order of fried plantains ($3.49), a dish we’ve always found very difficult to get just right, and right they were, soft and just trending toward crispy on the edges.
Now, a word about the amenities: Don’t expect much. As I said, the center itself is nearly empty, and about as unglamorous as it gets. The restaurant is just a big open strip-center space, brightly painted, with tables and booths spaced around and some disco lights that we think get broken out as the night wears on. We ordered at the counter, and the food was brought to the table by two friendly and polished young women. Dishes were of the melamine school of plastic, forks of a flimsier plastic, napkins paper.
So if you want fancy, go elsewhere. But if you want some jammin’ Jamaican food, this is a place that I think even a Wailer could love.
Contact reporter Heidi Knapp Rinella at hrinella@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0474. Follow Neon on Facebook at www.facebook.com/rjneon.