My birthday was this past Wednesday but my proper birthday party wasn't until last night. I gathered up some friends for dinner at one of my favourite Toronto restaurants, The Real Jerk. This place has been one of Toronto's landmark restaurants for over 25 years. They used to have a location on the corner of Queen and Broadview (with an enormous and unmistakable yellow sun along the side of the building). After over two decades the restaurant moved to a new location at Gerrard and Carlaw, but not before a hiatus that lasted over a year. In 2012 the landlord sold the building to someone else who ultimately evicted the Real Jerk owners. Some faithful customers even protested with signs to keep the restaurant there but to no avail. The owners had to start all over again somewhere new. It took about a year and a half for them to open at their new location near the end of 2013. Luckily, the new location is in approximately the same old neighbourhood. To my understanding they have recently opened a second location in Toronto's Beaches neighbourhood.
As soon as they reopened business boomed. Torontonians were so happy to have the Real Jerk back. It proved as a real testament to how much the community valued the food and the service. The Real Jerk specializes in Jamaican food but they do incorporate some other Caribbean dishes as well as a diverse rum bar. Everything that I have ever tried in my years of eating there has been outstanding. None of the food is pretentious or tries to be anything it's not. It's just plain, honest, good island food.
I've been to the Real Jerk numerous times. They custom make and bottle their own hot sauce and you better believe I have some in my fridge. I follow them on Twitter and Instagram (@realjerktoronto) and they follow my accounts as well. They've been very good to me and it just made sense to have a birthday dinner there. So as you'd expect, I'm doing up a post to show some of the different dishes we had.
There were eighteen of us in total. Old friends, some newer friends, MasterChef Canada family and our food blogger friend, Fouad. Below is a picture of myself with fellow MasterChef Canada season one contestants, Narida Mohammed, Brooke Feldman and Marida Mohammed. Also pictured is Fouad Makadsi, of Zero To Gourmet, and our friend Alisia who is also Brooke's current sous chef.
|From Left: Narida, Alisia, Me, Brooke, Fouad & Marida|
Let's start with my dish. Ever since the new year I've been keeping very physically active and eating healthy. As a result, I have been avoiding a lot of items that contain flour. I knew I was going to treat myself to some bread. What's the best kind of Caribbean bread? Roti of course. A classic roti is soft, stretchy bread layered with ground, dried chickpeas (channa) or split lentils. The sandwich of the same name is commonly curried potatoes and a curried meat or veggies wrapped up in the roti like a parcel. When you order a meat roti you usually get potatoes and the meat. At the Real Jerk you can add veggies to your roti for a dollar. I have done this every time I've ever ordered a roti from the Real Jerk. It makes it a bit healthier and I love vegetables so it's a double win for me. I ordered a curried goat roti with added veggies. Their curry goat is one of the best in the city and I'm a big fan. Whenever you add veggies to your roti they vary. This time they added cabbage, bell pepper, carrot, onion, corn, peas and green beans. I'm salivating right now just thinking about it.
Here are a few other dishes that my friends ordered....
Jerk pork ribs.
The "Deluxe Salad" topped with chicken and shrimp.
The jerk chicken/oxtail combo with rice and peas, gravy and coleslaw (they have the best coleslaw too!).
Ackee and saltfish with rice, gravy and coleslaw.
The Bob Marley Shot. I'm not exactly sure what's in it but they layer different liqueurs to make the classic Rastafarian red, yellow and green and then they light it on fire. The flame glows a blue colour. You blow out the flame and then take the whole shot. It's actually quite a culinary experience because the rim of the glass and the green liqueur is warm and sweet. The red liqueur on the bottom has a tarter sweetness and it's cold. So you get the full scope as you take the shot. Very interesting.
Some of the food photos had already been partially picked at before the shots were taken. The food is delicious, they serve generous portions and the service is great. What more could one ask for?
I wasn't expecting this at all, but several people came bearing gifts! Many of which were foodie related so I had to share. Fouad gave me a beautiful book full of successful and respected restaurant chefs in Toronto and each one has a recipe of a popular dish from their restaurant. It is fantastic and am very grateful to have it. Narida and Marida gave me a bottle of Prosecco from David Rocco's vineyard. We saw him do a cooking demo at the Gourmet Food & Wine expo last November. They bought a signed bottle at the event without my knowing and saved it. Right? How thoughtful is that? My friends Caryn and Hiromi got me this great set of appetizer plates and each one is illustrated with how one would ask for a beer in a particular country. lol. I'm sure these will make further appearances on the blog. They are just in time for the Superbowl. Hmm. I got a few other great gifts but I wanted to highlight these ones because of their food and cooking related origin. I appreciate them so much. Thank you guys!
If this post left you hungry for some Caribbean food, you'd be happy to know there are a number of Caribbean recipes right here on the blog. Here are a few you can consider next time you're in the mood.
I had a great birthday and I want to thank everybody who had a part in it. I have a feeling this is going to be a good year.
The Real Jerk is located at 842 Gerrard Street East and their second location is at 1004 Kingston Road. The Gerrard location can be reached by telephone at 416-463-6055 and the Kingston Road location's number is 416-690-8752.
As I post this the web-site is currently under construction, but depending on when you read this it could be up and running. The link is www.therealjerk.com
Until next time,