Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Nezzie's Jamaican Cuisine: Where a Greasy Spoon Is a Plus

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Nezzie's Jamaican Cuisine: Where a Greasy Spoon Is a Plus

Article excerpt

`COMING SOON!' read the sign outside Nezzie's Jamaican cuisine, in the depths of winter.

"The whole thing's just a big Caribbean joke," a colleague said sourly, as months went by and Nezzie's seemed to be permanently manana. But Nezzie's is now open, spreading sunshine in the gray low-rent wasteland between Downtown and Midtown on Olive. The menus and walls are a cheery yellow, the blue-green plastic tablecloths pick up the color of the palm trees painted on the window and the music is instant island-good-times.

The afternoon after my first lunch at Nezzie's was unusually stressful, but I seemed to sail serenely through it. Then I remembered: Grease soothes.

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And Nezzie's is rich in grease, splendid tasty grease, which made me realize what I have been missing, trying to purge fats from my diet. We started off with salt cod fritters - as slim as crepes and all cod and spices. And grease. Crispy brown around the edges. Delicious.

Then I had one of the three "Lite Meals," chunks of curried goat wrapped in roti or Indian bread, a reminder of that culture's powerful presence in Jamaica. The "bread" was rather like a silky flour tortilla; the goat was, well, interesting. No, it does not taste just like chicken - or lamb, beef or pork. I may not order it again, but I didn't dislike it. The fried plantain that came with it was terrific; the green salad banal.

One companion had fricasseed falling-off-the-bone chicken wings, the other "escoveitch" fish, which was spicy and first-rate. Both these entrees came with what the menus calls `Rice 'n Peas,' which is really marvelously flavorful (and, yes, greasy) rice with an occasional red bean.

The beverages included a ginger beer that appeared to be homemade; I thought it tasted like liquid soap, but several other diners seemed to be enjoying it. Our table did like the mahogany colored "sorrell," a tangy and refreshing soft drink that bore no resemblance to the vegetable that makes such a fine creamed soup or fish sauce. The waiters, engaging but not informative, were no help, and Nezzie was nowhere to be seen.

I discovered later that the drink we had enjoyed is made with the leaves and flowers of the Jamaican sorrel, which is really a hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa) that originated in tropical Africa and Asia. …

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