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Spicy Island and Mr. Pattie: Jerk-off

Jerk-off

Nice guys serving up jerk at Mr. Pattie
Photo: Marianne McEwen

Spicy Island and Mr. Pattie bring the island of Jamaica to the island of Montreal

It’s unfortunate that the traditional Jamaican spice rub for meat is called "jerk." There’s no gravitas. Like calling Japanese soy-mirin glaze "shmuck," it just doesn’t sound right. But it sure tastes good. Sadly, I haven’t had a lot of quality jerk in this city. Yet in my sampling of the city’s mixed offerings, I’ve hit on two small places that serve up some solid jerk.

Spicy Island is a stark hole-in-the-wall out in Roxboro (that’s in the West Island, for you insular downtowners) that has an actual inset charcoal grill. This is probably why their jerk chicken tastes properly dark and smoky. The huge portion of moist chicken came coated in a proprietary jerk mixture featuring allspice, thyme and scotch bonnets, but was not overwhelmingly spicy despite the restaurant’s name. (When I asked for extra hot sauce, I was met with incredulous wonder. Is it still so rare to have white people like fiery food? Wait, don’t answer that.)

While the chicken was the highlight, the tasty rice and beans, prepared with a judicious amount of coconut milk and a hint of nutmeg, came as a welcome surprise. I’ve found most Caribbean rice and beans in Montreal to be bland and terrible, and I’ve never been able to figure out why. Alongside this flavour combination were some festivals, tiny stodgy dumplings of cornmeal, like johnnycake Timbits. They’re addictive. Spicy Island also offers the usual rotis, oxtail (weekends only) and curry goat.

The other jerk store ("called and they’re running outta you!") is Mr. Pattie, a bakery with a couple of small tables, located in deepest NDG. The jerk here is available only on Saturday but it’s worth the trip, especially considering they offer the rare (not that kind of rare) choice of pork as well as chicken. Their pork is a gorgeous sight to behold, boasting a burnished ebony char that made even my vegetarian dining companion salivate. Slightly tamer on the heat than Spicy Island’s, Mr. Pattie’s fare concentrates on a subtle, warming flavour, resulting in essentially a marvellous hunk of Jamaican smoked meat (its tender, melting texture comes from steaming, just like a classic slab of brisket). The meat also comes with superior rice and beans, which I hope sparks a trend.

Considering that the place is called Mr. Pattie, it’s not surprising that they bake fantastic beef and chicken patties – by far the best I’ve had in Montreal. They even make a rich, curry-laced vegetarian version, without a frozen carrot in sight. Sure, there’s probably lard in the dough, but what are you going to do? Sue-t me? (Ed. For that joke, yes.) The pastry is a golden orange, and flakier than Katie Holmes. (Ed. For that one too.)To top it off, they make coconut drops and tarts (gizzarda) laced with ginger that are exquisitely sweet and piquant.

Spicy Island and Mr. Pattie certainly make the Jamaican food scene here much more interesting. Can’t let the Trinidadians and Guyanese have all the fun.

Spicy Island
10413 Gouin Blvd. W.; 514-685-2111
Dinner for two, before tax and tip: $20-$30

Mr. Pattie
5312 Patricia Ave.; 514-483-2323
Dinner for two, before tax and tip: $10-$25

Questions? Comments? Bitter rants? jkarpati@hour.ca

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  2 comments

  • by Reuven De Souza - October 5, 2008, 1:24 pm

    Boy did you ever hit the nail on the head when you aluded to the fact that there is a scarcity of good West Indian restaurants in the city ( much like Indian restos as well).
    But did you really have to let the world know about Mr. Pattie? You are just making my life harder than it has to be by letting everyone know about this jewel of a place. I had hoped that the non-descript exterior and the fact that it is in a long forgotten area of NDG, would keep people in the dark about tasty delights that await them at Mr. Pattie.
    Their mouth watering rotis ( despite not being mentioned they are fit and will fill a king) and sublime patties are an excuse in and of themselves for a detour into deepest NDG. While I have yet to try the pork jerk the description will have be braving the lines on a Saturday to get a hold of this unknown delight.
    Mr. Pattie is the stuff ( and spices ) that dreams are made of…do yourself a favor and find out why. Just not when I am there!

  • by jerked - March 20, 2012, 7:34 pm

    After almost a year of absence Spicy Island is back in the West Island. I so missed Jannette’s Jerk. New location not far from the old one…tiny take out, next to a garage, but same great food.

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