There are days when you are far away from home, in Florida, perhaps, and you get a certain feeling, a sudden urge, sort of, for a sumptuous Jamaican dish…something truly satisfying, and filling. Essentially, in this age of the ubiquitous smart phone equipped with Internet access, you simply Google “Jamaican restaurant,” right from the roadside, when you get this yearning.
Well, I did just that recently on a visit to Florida after I left a Kingston College Old Boys Association meeting. Among the list of hits were two links that sparked my curiosity, since the related restaurants were both located in Boca Raton…yes, Boca, as it’s often called for short, the home city for the now defunct IBM spinoff that launched the once-heralded IBM-brand PC. Yes, Boca, a well-regarded high-income area…the very locality for the final of three 2012 presidential debates between President Obama and his challenger.
This I had to see, I thought to myself intrepidly. My line of thinking was that there was no way they could serve anything close to authentic Jamaican food in Boca. So, I programmed my GPS for the RockSteady Jamaican Jerk Café at 1179 South Federal Highway. While there I enquired about the other location, one located about 20 blocks north at 2399 North Federal Highway, also in Boca Raton.
The Café location caters mainly to the lunch crowd. Based on my stated interest, I was directed to the RockSteady Jamaican Bistro Restaurant, 2399 N. Federal Highway. “That location would better suit your style and interest,” I was told. “Essentially, you will have a wider array of choices on the menu from which to select, especially seafood items.”
Parking is tight, so you have to be fairly diligent to get a good spot. Once you get that spot, prepare yourself for one of the best dining experiences ever. That experience could even include a cultural awakening, as you could very well get a lecture, not just on Jamaican culture, but on the cultures of the other Caribbean Islands, and even on African culture. If you are lucky enough, you may even get a jig from Lauren, one of the servers. She’s very personable, highly talented, and quite bright.
RockSteady’s décor is tastefully Caribbean, first, and also African. Marley is often “hot on the box,” in the background as Stevie Wonder might say. And, based on what I have heard, you should not be too surprised to find yourself dining next to a few of Bob’s close descendants.
On the menu one has a wide array of choices. During one visit I started out by indulging my appetite with the readily available rich, “thick,” and tasty red peas (kidney beans) soup. It was prepared with a light but easily identifiable touch of pepper to taste.
I also love the crispy garden salad, perfectly matched with…get this…jerk raspberry sauce. It’s a bit spicy, undoubtedly, but there’s a method to the madness: the sauce is bound to get you started early with your choice from a wide selection of Caribbean beers, such as Red Stripe, or Dragon. Are there others? Oh yes! There are Banks, and Carib, and, from the Bahamas, Kalik Gold. Your tongue-soothing drink may even be a glass of chilled white wine, or a room-temperature red, which is the usual temperature most connoisseurs like a fine red.
“From the Watas” main dish specialties include lobster tail, shrimp, or salmon, scrumptiously prepared jerked or grilled. The curry shrimp pasta is also a big hit with RockSteady’s many diners, most of whom are American. Should you have a yearning for exceptional “Yard” delicacies, the curried goat, ox tail and, reportedly, the brown stew “Trenton,” are all appetizingly succulent (no pun intended). Should your palate be a bit more discriminating, your choice of filet mignon should “fill” the bill.
My all-time favorite is the curried goat. I can attest to the fact that it is one of the most flavorful and satisfyingly mouthwatering rendition that I have ever had, with the exception of my very own offering which I prepare ever so often at home, time permitting. Time constraints force me to use a pressure cooker to tenderize the meat. In addition, doing so seals in the seasoning to a greater extent, I am willing to contend and boast.
Of course, since it’s a family restaurant, RockSteady also provides ably well for children’s varied appetites. Children may make their choices from the “Fi Di Pickney Dem” menu. Among the available items for the youngsters are ‘mac and cheese,’ chicken fingers, and similar delights.
As I wrapped up my most recent visit, I reflected on my total RockSteady experience over the few months since I discovered that gem of a restaurant. Great-tasting food, I thought. Excellent service! Friendly atmosphere! It’s not your everyday Jamaican-style restaurant in Florida…it’s a place for savory, culinary delights, served in a cozy atmosphere. It’s always a wonderful experience for me, and with servings priced $30 and under…no problem!