Real Jamaican cuisine has a home in the US at Sattdown in Studio City – Daily News
Let me tell you a fun (and somewhat informative) story about dining in Jamaica: A few years ago, I went on a misguided vacation to one of these all-inclusive resorts in Montego Bay. After a day at the buffet, I went into town for some real Jamaican chow – jerk chicken, stamp ‘n go, ackee’ n saltfish and so on.
I had a jitney at Mo’Bay where I found an amazing selection of continental restaurants, none of which offered anything Jamaican or Caribbean. I found lobster from Maine, but not shellfish from local waters.
Finally, unable to cope with another all-inclusive buffet, I made my way along the coast, until I spotted a hut on the beach, with a crowd of locals having lunch on fresh fish from the waves. The restaurant was surprised to find a tourist from the resorts going for real food.
Back at the hotel, a customer pointed out to me that what I had done made no sense. “You paid for the food here,” he told me. “And anywhere you can get sick from eating in foreign countries!”
All of this brings me to the oddity that in some ways it’s easier to find Jamaican food here in Los Angeles than in Jamaica. We’re lucky to have hot spots like Derrick’s, The Jerk Spot, Wi Jammin ‘, Little Kingston, Ackee Bamboo, Hungry Joe’s – and right on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City, Sattdown Jamaican Grill. It’s a happy Jamaican cafe, with a reggae theme, lots of Jamaican photos, and the green yellow and red pattern of the Bob Marley flag.
The service is Caribbean – which means it’s not a place to eat when you’re in a rush. The casual style is the dominant style, with tropical juices instead of Red Stripe Beer – guava, mango, passion fruit, sorrel, pineapple and ginger, etc.
The menu offers a sample of the food, many dishes, perhaps too much to easily know what to eat – although, of course, you can never go wrong with the jerk chicken, which is one of the great creations of the area. Jamaican cuisine, a dish defined by its taste buds slamming the spices. It’s chicken that’s impossible not to love.
“Jerk” originally comes from the Indian word Quechua meaning “to dry”; jerky has the same derivation. But over the years, it has also become synonymous with meat coated with a sauce of dry (or wet) spices – jerk sauce.
While it’s not just used on chicken – Sattdown’s menu also includes jerk shrimp, jerk salmon, jerk mahi mahi, and even jerk tofu – chicken has long been the jerk protein of choice. And at Sattdown, it’s easy to see why – the chicken is just about perfect, tender and crisp at the same time, with a flavor that grabs you and doesn’t let go. It is an addictive spice. That I didn’t find him in Mo’Bay is, in retrospect, criminal.
If you want a great taste of Jamaica, start with one of the patties – basically empanadas with a Caribbean twist – beef, grated jerk chicken, mild ground chicken, a shrimp and crab combo and veggie.
If you need a dose of carbs, go for the fried festival – a cornmeal dumpling flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla, which could probably make a dessert dish very well.
Of course, there are wings with jerk sauce – wings with jerk sauce are a treat made in Caribbean Heaven. There’s also a jerk chicken salad and a jerk salmon salad, as it’s SoCal, and the salads are required by law. But for most of us, it’s the entries that demand our attention.
They are all accompanied by rice and peas, steamed vegetables and fried plantains. In addition to the jerk chicken, there is chicken curry, brown stew chicken, barbecue chicken, mango chutney chicken, and tropical chicken in a fruit ginger sauce.
If you want to dig deeper, there’s the curried goat cheese and braised oxtails. And yes, there’s ackee ‘n saltfish, identified on the menu as National Dish, a scrambled egg dish made without real eggs – ackee is a curious local fruit that looks a lot like scrambled eggs.
It is served with cod, peppers and onions. (I vote for jerk chicken as my national dish. But hey, there it is.)
There is also a decent sized vegan menu, where jerk is used with soy beef, soy chicken, or tofu. Ackee is scrambled with vegetables, not fish.
More good things to eat: Where to find the best barbecue food in the San Fernando Valley
And what a pleasure to find a Children’s Menu with pancakes and plantains, chicken in curry and brown chicken stew on it.
The guy who warned me about eating abroad should try this stuff. But it won’t – some people never leave their hotels.
They don’t know what they’re missing – and they don’t care.
Merrill Shindler is an independent Los Angeles-based food critic. Email him at [email protected]
Jamaican Grill Sattdown
Evaluation: 3 stars
Address: 11320, boulevard Ventura, Studio City
Information: 818-766-3696, www.sattdownjamaicangrill.com
When: Lunch and dinner, Tuesday to Saturday
Details: Soft drink; useful reservations
Atmosphere: A relaxed mini-cafe on the Tujunga Curve in Studio City, decorated in vibrant Jamaican colors, with reggae music in the air and the kind of laid-back service you’d expect on a Caribbean island, with some of the best chicken shaken around.
Prices: About $ 18 per person.
Suggested dishes: 5 Jamaican patties ($ 3.50), Sattdown wings (3 flavors) ($ 7), Jerk chicken salad ($ 10), Jerk salmon salad ($ 13), Jumbo shrimp (4 flavors) ($ 15) , Asian Jerk Mahi Mahi ($ 15), Ackee & salted fish ($ 18), beef brisket ($ 14), curry goat cheese ($ 15.50), oxtails ($ 17), 2-flavor combination plate ( $ 20), Chicken Curry ($ 12), Brown Chicken Stew ($ 12), Barbecue Chicken ($ 12), Mango Chicken Chutney ($ 13), Jerk Chicken and Barvecue Jerk ($ 14), Combo Plate 2 Flavors ($ 15 and more), Rice and Peas ($ 2 / $ 4), Roasted Bread ($ 4.50)
Cards: MC, V
What do the stars mean: Ratings range from 4 stars to zero. 4 star is world class (worth a visit from anywhere). 3 star is the most excellent, if not exceptional (worth a visit from anywhere in Southern California). 2 stars is a good address for a meal (to visit if you are in the neighborhood). 1 star is a place to go if you are hungry and it’s close by. Zero stars is not worth writing.