An open space with a scattering of tables, Caribbean Twist has a modest, take-out joint feel. The walls are bright yellow and orange. Potted palms and other greenery weave around the tables, and a bank of windows at the front of the restaurant offers a bright wash of natural light. All together, there is a low-key cheeriness to the room.
Walking in, we're unsure if we should just sit down or go to the counter to order, so we make our way toward a counter where a cook is standing behind a station of warming trays. We are greeted with a welcoming smile and the question "eat-in or take out?" We're eating in.
We pick a table and are quickly brought some menus. Our server is delightful, smiling and conversational, and immediately makes us feel at home.
The menu features Jamaican barbecue, curries and roti. Everything hints at heat, and spice lingers softly in the air. We order the jerk chicken ($9.49) and the goat curry roti ($10.49).
The jerk chicken comes with steamed cabbage and a pile of "rice and peas," a mix of white rice and black beans. The three plump little drumsticks are mouth-wateringly moist, meat easily peeling away from the bone. The jerk seasoning smoulders; my lips are tingling after the first bite, and have the satisfying buzz and burn that a good jerk should give you by the end of the meal.
The cabbage is really nicely seasoned. It's fresh and subtly salty, and the mild flavour is a really great counterpoint to the chicken. The rice and beans are also delicious, and the starchiness also helps in dulling the heat of the jerk seasoning without totally putting out the flames.
My friend gets the goat curry. The cook asks if he'd like it on or off the bone, which is a nice courtesy. He gets it off the bone. The roti arrives simply presented, folded into a thick square. It's not the most exciting dish to look at, especially next to the delicious-looking plate of jerk chicken, but the taste makes up for it.
The wrap is filled with a goat and potato curry. The curry has a nice spice, but without packing much heat. The goat meat is nicely cooked; the lean meat is still tender and very tasty.
Our server comes back to entice us into a dessert. She tells us that they have banana cream pie ($2.99) that day, and that it's absolutely delicious. They special-order it from Ontario, so it's not always available. What can I do? I order it.
The pie is not what I expect---but in the best possible way. A small slice of pie dotted with bursts of thick whipped cream, the banana cream sits on a layer of caramel filling. It's a nice combination. And it's sweet, but not overwhelmingly so. It's a great finish to the meal.
When I go to the cash register to pay, I spot the Jamaican patty display. On seeing them, I silently curse myself for not ordering one. The patties aren't made in-house, but are instead ordered from Juici Patties, an incredibly successful Jamaican manufacturer and fast-food chain. Caribbean Twist has mild and spicy meat patties and a vegetarian patty. After about a minute of regret, they prove impossible to resist, so I order a spicy beef patty ($1.99) to go.
A few hours pass before I crack open my paper bag to retrieve the patty. It's still good. Great, in fact. The crispy coco bread shell on the large patty is still flaky. The slight sweetness of the dough is a tasty counterpoint to the spicy filling. The meat is still moist and delicious. It's a big serving and ultimately more of a meal than a snack. And at a mere two dollars, this means Caribbean Twist is on my list for good, cheap eats.