Hot Chocolate never lets me forget about the time we went to The Reef without her. So I keep promising her that the next time we go, she would be included. In fact, I would make it mission of mine to head there just for her benefit. Well, that was nearly 5 years ago when I made that declaration. That's as long as someone has to wait for surgery in BC! LOL... Anyways, I finally followed through and we made our way over to the Main Street location after Monday night softball.
Before anything else arrived, we were treated to their complimentary Johnny Cakes. These freshly-fried balls of joy were exactly how I remembered them - crispy on the outside and a firm fluffy on the inside. These were sweet and with melting butter, well let's just say they were good. While looking at the menu, I was eying the Tasting Platter consisting of Chana Salad, Plantain Chips, Jerk Wings and Coco Prawns. Hence, I enlisted the help of Boss Woman, Milhouse and Bear to help me eat it. Such helpful people! The wings were moist while mostly mild with only hint of spice. Crunchy with a snap, the coco prawns were okay, but over-battered. I found the chickpeas to be rather soft while bathed in a mildly spicy garam masala.
Bear also went for his own order of Doubles. For those unfamiliar, it is a sandwich made with bara which is fried flat bread. There are different fillings, but for this one, it was curried chickpeas. Unlike the one I had recently at D Roti Shak, the bara was dense, greasy and really crunchy. The chickpeas were no different than the ones from the tasting platter being mildly spiced. For his main, he had the Trini Roti with curry chicken. Since most of the filling was dark meat, it ended up being moist. Unlike the chickpea curry, the heat level was amped in the roti where it lingered. He didn't end up opting for the dahlpouri (spiced lentils in between the layers of roti), hence his roti was a bit chewier and less "fluffy".
Hot Chocolate went for one of my 2 choices being the Calypso Oxtail, but since she is a super nice person, I got to try some. Stewed with potatoes and carrots and served atop rice and beans, this was a substantial portion. The meat was fall-off-the-bone tender with only a few stringy parts. The flavours were rich, but missing something. For myself, I decided on Jamaica's national dish - Ackee & Saltfish consisting of ackee fruit, salt cod, onion, tomato and peppers atop rice and peas with coleslaw on the side. For those who haven't tried ackee, it has the consistency of scrambled eggs. Combined with the salted fish and veggies, the mix exhibited varied flavours including some saltiness, spice and sweetness.
Milhouse went for his standby which was meat in the Dominca Beef consisting of cumin & garlic marinated tenderloin tips with salsa verde served with mashed potatoes & veggies. I was able to sample a piece and it was really tender and moist. The flavours were definitely there, but not too strong. The mash was whipped, hence being quite light and fluffy. As for the broccoli, it was a bit underdone being really crunchy. Judes doesn't handle spice well, so she ordered the only dish she could off the menu - Island Thyme Chicken. Consisting of coconut milk marinated chicken slow cooked in Jamaican thyme, the dish was aromatic if not a bit bland. The chicken breast itself was surprisingly moist for being slow-cooked.
Boss Woman had essentially what Bear ordered minus the roti in the West Indian Chicken Curry served with white rice, coleslaw, mango chutney and dahi. So similarly, the chicken was moist being dark meat while the curry was quite spicy. The plate could've used a bit more rice as a result. In the end, The Reef met our expectations in terms of Vancouver Jamaican food. Since Hot Chocolate hails from the Caribbean, she summed up our experience the best - the food does the job decently for where we live. Anyone expecting more should then buy a ticket to Jamaica because restaurants try to appeal to the local population (they are a business after all).
- Something different
- A low-risk introduction to Caribbean fare
- Love those Johnny Cakes
- Flavours could be even more impactful