This is a very different kind of review. I am still going to purchase a dish and write my opinions about said dish. This will be a dish that I will purchase for take-out. I know where I am going. I know what I’m going to order. I know how much it will cost. I have an idea of what it will taste like. (Starting to understand what makes this review different?) I am writing this review in anticipation. I have not yet had the dish that will eventually appear in photographs in this piece.
I am going to Pimento Caribbean Restaurant to have a dish of Oxtails. It comes with choice of rice, I’m going to get rice and peas, and choice of vegetable. If available, I’m going to have cabbage.
How can you write a review in advance? Well… the first part of this is not so much a review of a particular restaurant as it is a commentary on restaurants and eating in general.
For a long time, I’ve been searching for the perfect oxtail. Jamaican dishes like oxtail, curry goat, stew peas & rice, etc… are comfort food for me. In the good ole USA, we usually think of comfort food as meatloaf, chicken with biscuits and gravy, pork chops, and the like. While I do recognize these as comfort dishes in most restaurants, it is not the food I was raised on. I never had a pork chop until my late twenties. A biscuit is more a dried-out dumpling than it is a comfort item to me. The scent of baking meat in a loaf pan was not permeating throughout the house during my childhood. I remember the smells of the pressure cooker opening with the scent of oxtail stew with lima beans and dumplings. I remember the taste of really good curry goat, especially the texture if it yielded properly with each bite.
While I was in Florida, my grandmother made oxtail. I was transported. She’s not just my grandmother, she’s one of the best cooks I’ve ever known. She was a caterer for many years and has also run a number of restaurants. Her cooking is excellent, not just the stuff of childhood memories. MG, who is an oxtail novice tried her oxtail and deemed it something she would sample again.
Trying to find something that would match my grandmother’s oxtail is a loosing battle. The best I can hope for is a good offering. Too many places simply stink. If the texture if off, the dish is a loss. Oxtail should be slow cooked and come out tender and savory. Stringy and tough is unacceptable. The accompanying sauce should be rich and complex, not watery and dominated by tomato.
A few weeks ago, I tried out Pimento’s offering. It wasn’t Grandma’s, but it was pretty good. There was a bit more tomato flavor that I like, but it wasn’t a marinara sauce. The rice and peas were very nice, not dried out or dominated by coconut flavor. The sauteed cabbage was also good. I’m very curious to see if the dish in reality meets the dish in my memory.
That’s half the thrill of going to restaurants in the first place: the thrill of anticipation. When it’s a new place, you wonder about the smells, sounds, and tastes will greet you. When it is a place you have been once, you want to know if they will meet your expectations a second time. If it is a place you have been a number of times, you are looking forward to a familiar taste, smell, and the feeling of satisfaction of getting exactly what you wanted. This visit will be something between a second visit and a familiar place. I kind of know what I’m going to taste, and I’m looking forward to the flavors of a comfort dish, but I’m not sure if Pimento will meet the expectations set by my first visit.
I’ll know soon…
When I arrived at Pimento, it was around 9pm on a Wednesday. Since many of the dishes are slow cooked, not everything is available.
Take a look at that huge menu. Scores of soups, plenty of breakfast dishes, and even Jamaican ice cream is available. What is Jamaican ice cream? Ice cream made by Jamaicans, of course. Some of the staple flavors include rum raisin, grape nut, and egg nog. However, that is a review for another day. Luckily, they had my oxtail. They had my rice and peas. They even had my cabbage. Excellent. I got my medium dish ($11.00) and was on my way home.
Take a look at that color. The meat is a deep brown with a slight tinge of red. It was better than I remembered. It was savory with just a little bit of heat. It was incredibly tender with just enough resistance. Any more tender, it would just fall apart. I would have preferred a little more of the fat trimmed off, but that is a minor complaint, at worst.
The rice was also excellent, plenty of moisture and just a mild bit of coconut flavor.
The fun, and difficult part of eating oxtail is moving around the bones. It is almost impossible to eat without using your hands. As complex as the flavor of the meat is, the marrow is even more intense. The sauce has seeped into the bone creating a magical shot of beef, peeper, and gravy. This is not a dish for dainty eaters.
It was beautiful. It was exactly what I wanted and it exceeded my memory. Pimento has a few seats available for dining in, but most of their business is take-out. They are worth the trip, well worth it, in fact.
Pimento Caribbean Restaurant
4018 Boston Road
Bronx, NY 10475