Memorable | One of the Best
Jamrock Caribana | Deep South Jamaican Treasure | Warrenville, SC
Review by: Michael Stern
Jamrock’s menu states its mission: “Serving our culture in every bite.” The culture is Jamaican, and the bites include jerk chicken, oxtails, rum cake, and the national dish, ackee & saltfish. This might be the best Deep South Jamaican food.
The culture you are served at Jamrock Caribana goes beyond the food. Background music in the dining room is reggae. The staff are laid-back hospitable in a way that may not be unique to Jamaica, but is typical of it. The building itself (previously home to Sawasdee, which became Thai Jasmine Rice) is located off the beaten path on the Old Augusta Highway. Bright colors that evoke the national flag make it easy to spot. Inside, tables are set social-distance correctly apart. It’s a sociable place, but much business is take-out.
Familiar Jamaican dishes are wonderful. Jerk chicken is complex and intriguingly spiced. Jerk shrimp — little ones, presented in abundance atop a salad of sweet tropical fruit — can be four-alarm hot. Plantains are sweet and just-right chewy. Oxtails are fatty-rich, requiring some work to get the meat. But they are so worth the reward of luxurious flavor.
Ackee and saltfish has character unlike anything else. That’s mainly due to ackee, a peculiar fruit that is an island favorite. It comes as little yellow pods that resemble slightly overcooked pasta shells. Their texture is something like avocado and they taste like … well, like nothing I’ve ever tasted. Although a fruit, they verge on savory more than sweet. They are more vegetable-like, similar to very tender hearts of palm. These delicacies are woven with shreds of salted cod to become a whirl of flavor that truly is exciting. This is Jamaican food at its best!
Another thrilling specialty on Jamrock Caribana’s menu is billed as Barbifry chicken. As its portmanteau name hints, it is chicken that is fried, then coated with spicy barbecue sauce and baked. The sauce’s flavor seeps deep into the meat. It’s Deep South Jamaican fare! In a distant way, it reminds me of the unique fried-then-BBQ-sauced chicken served at the legendary Keaton’s in North Carolina.
Dessert is interesting, too. Black cake, aka Christmas cake, is intoxicatingly rummy, available sauced with chocolate and/or caramel. The house specialty is called a coneado. It’s a waffle-cone bowl that appears to hold simply a pile of ice cream, whipped cream, maraschino cherries, and sauce of choice, but in fact hides a thick layer of buttery pound cake at the bottom. What a joy to excavate!
|Meals Served||Lunch, Dinner|
|Credit Cards Accepted||Yes|