One Village diner gives visitors a taste of the islands with its true Jamaican flavor and casual Caribbean feel. CHOW.com contributing editor Liza de Guia filed the following report.
When it comes to island-themed restaurants it’s sometimes hard to get that right balance between kitschy and authentic. But Miss Lily’s in the Village, a hub for all good things Jamaican, is doing something right.
Miss Lily’s is co-founded by Paul Salmon, an Australian by birth but a born-again Jamaican at heart. He explained that Miss Lily’s isn’t a real person but a way of honoring the small food shops run by women around the island, places that create a community around food.
And the food is solid: authentic in its roots but given a modern twist by Jamaican-raised Executive Chef Kemis Lawrence. Seafood and peppery dishes, like the curry shrimp or jerk chicken, are his specialties. But come on weekends for an out of the ordinary brunch: the Jamaican Breakfast, a heaping plate of ackee and saltfish, callaloo, festivals and fried plantains.
Ackee and saltfish is Jamaica’s national dish. It’s a strong-flavored dish, very fishy and salty. But it’s well balanced with fresh peppers, onions and creamy ackee, an island fruit with a mild tofu-like flavor and a scrambled egg-like texture. It pairs well with the cornmeal-based “festivals” that are similar to hush puppies but are more moist and more sugary. The side of braised callaloo, a leafy green similar to kale, is cooked down with Jamaica’s signature scotch bonnet peppers. It’s spicy and oniony and the pile of fried sweet plantains lets the palate rest between all the salt.
It’s a ton of food for $18, which is why it’s great to share. Add a Ting-a-Ling, half Red Stripe beer and half Ting soda, and relax into the positive vibes of the smiling staff and Jamaica feels less than an ocean away.
Miss Lily’s is located at 132 West Houston St. at Sullivan Street in Manhattan. For more dining recommendations, visit CHOW.com.