Vibrant, energetic and complex: those words certainly describe Jamaican culture, but according to Minneapolis-based Pimento Kitchen’s Tomme Beevas, they also describe its cuisine, a regional darling that’s been making a play as the next hot global food trend.
Don’t forget the pimento
Beevas, a native of Kingston, grew up in a home dominated by the kitchen skills of his grandmother, Sylvia “Baby Lue” Jones. The new restaurant invokes the tastes and spirit of his hometown. “The city of Kingston is the heart of Jamaican culture,” Beevas says. “We savor the pure enjoyment of food.” If there is one ingredient that dominates all others in Jamaican cuisine, Beevas says, it’s pimento – hence the name for the restaurant. “We use whole or ground berries and use the wood to smoke jerk dishes.” Most diners are familiar with jerk chicken, but Jamaicans also have delicious interpretations of fish dishes. “We don’t really batter our fish, but prefer to marinate it in a sauce of vinegar, onions, carrots and Scotch bonnet peppers that we call escoveitch.”
Food Court War winner
After winning the Food Network’s Food Court Wars, Pimento Kitchen opened just a little over a year ago on Minneapolis’ famed Eat Street. It’s a fast-casual concept of authentic Jamaican street food using family recipes, chef-inspired techniques and fresh local ingredients. The restaurant’s most popular dish is Kingston-Style Jerk Chicken, which is marinated in the kitchen’s signature jerk rub, then fire-grilled.
Other customer favorites include Braised Oxtail, prepared from Beevas’ cousin Pinky’s signature recipe and served with butter beans, carrot, potato and country gravy. Another top seller is Curry Goat, slow cooked with potato and island spices. The eatery carries five signature sauces, ranging from mild to hot: Neutralizer, Jerk Ranch, Minnesota Nice, Kingston Kick and Kill Dem Wid It, a super-spicy blend of habanero peppers, lime, charred scallion, soy sauce and fresh herbs.
Don’t skimp on flavor
If you’re considering adding Jamaican-inspired dishes on your menu, Beevas suggests incorporating a big and bold flavor profile. “Control the amount of salt you use, but after that, have fun and don’t skimp. Be sure to include plenty of thyme and, of course, pimento. As my grandmother always said: ‘Good food is glory.’”
Read this descriptive roundup of Jamaican dishes, including ackee, bammy, callaloo, run down (fish and vegetable stew), Solomon Grundy (pickled fish pâté) and soursop.
Curry Apple Vinaigrette – 36 oz Apple Vinaigrette with 2 tsp Curry Powder
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