ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Spicy, tasty food from around the world
By Jeff Zon
646 Richmond St.
A quiet face on the busy Richmond Row, Jambalaya restaurant is a prime location for students looking to enjoy a leisurely dinner before a night out on the town.
Climbing the steps and entering the front door, clients are greeted in dim light by one of two servers that tend to the seven or so tables that compose the restaurant's dining room. The walls are adorned in decorative pieces to give the tiny, intimate room a feeling of commotion. At the front right corner, two tables are befriended by a fireplace. The warmth suggests a comforting experience to come.
Jambalaya's repertoire consists of cuisine with Thai, Cajun and Jamaican influences. However, there is a flavour harmony that exists between each dish that allows them be eaten together.
For a pre-entrée tease, appetizers are available including Thai spring rolls. On the outside, these rolls look almost like their Chinese counterparts, although one sniff when bringing it to your mouth will reveal their spicier nature. When the slightly greasy outer shell cracks, mouths are greeted with a rush of flavourful Thai rice noodle. A plate of two rolls for between $6 and $7 is a little pricey, but worth a try if you're hungry and willing to spend a little more.
Entrées on the menu are categorized by meat and noodle content and are accompanied by a sandwich section as well. Most dishes include a fair level of spice that is just enough for any palate, even those averse to piquant foods. For those with a penchant for pungent, several of the dishes listed on the menu include a hot pepper logo, indicating an above average level of bite.
For a conservative patron, the Jerk chicken provides all the taste of Cajun and Jamaican food with little risk. The meat is served alongside a small portion of buttered carrots, broccoli and rice. The chicken is a thin filet and is breaded and spiced with traditional green jerk spice. To the taste buds, each bite provides a moderate hotness and a surge of accompanying flavour.
A more daring customer may decide to try the Guyanese Pepperpot, a blend of turkey, chicken and beef cooked in a thick black sauce. Served on a bed of rice with beans, this plate is deceptively calm. Each bite-size morsel of meat is cooked to almost perfect tenderness. The sauce itself is what provides the most surprising enjoyment; at first it masquerades as sweet, but two to three seconds later, the taste will shift to drier and spicier. The consistency of the pepperpot sauce is delightful and its excess at the bottom of your plate is perfect for mixing with an abundance of rice.
An even more adventurous soul may venture and try some of the more exotic meats, such as a selection of fish or goat. One of the most impressive feats of the Jambalaya kitchen is the softness of which they are able to cook their goat, served also with a bed of rice. Each bit of goat meat, so tender and carefully seasoned, will melt in your mouth and leave a spicy, but satisfying aftertaste.
Though the atmosphere, music and overall setting are unimposing, the food at Jambalaya is a pleasure. For a dining couple, a meal including appetizers will cost approximately $35. Those especially fond of Cajun or Jamaican cooking would be well rewarded by paying this host a visit.