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HUMMINGBIRD (1276 Queen East, at Alton, 647-748-3004, thehummingbird.ca, @hummingbirdTO) Complete dinners for $25 (lunches $15), including tax, tip and a domestic beer. Open Tuesday and Wednesday 11:30 am to 9 pm, Thursday to Saturday 11:30 am to 10 pm. Brunch Sunday 10 am to 4 pm. Closed Monday, holidays. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNNN
Otis Creary has clearly come a long way since managing the McDonalds at Yonge and Eglinton.
Last December, he flew solo for the first time with the Hummingbird, a Caribbean-inspired bistro-cum-takeaway conveniently located directly across the street from the Leslieville beer store. And every Friday and Saturday night since, he's fired up his oil-drum barbecue from 5 to 9 pm to pump out some of the best Jamaican jerk in town.
He marinates cubes of lean pork tenderloin in an aggressive coriander- and thyme-scented rub, then grills them skewered between alternating slices of sweet bell peppers and pineapple ($10 for two). His chicken ($8) is just as moist and comes sided like the kebabs with either grilled corn on the cob or roasted sweet potatoes. Those still pining for Mado's will flip for Creary's ballistic mango hot sauce, soon to be available by the bottle.
From the à la carte menu, that same jerk-alicious chicken finds its way into a salad ($12) of ripe avocado, baby grape tomatoes and "croutons" fashioned from caramelized plantain over local greens in thyme-spiked balsamic vinaigrette. Foregoing a French baguette, Creary brilliantly piles his subtle saltfish and ackee bruschetta ($9) on house-baked bammy flatbread instead. Even the roti impress, most notably the chickpea, callaloo and pumpkin squash in a delicate dhal puri wrapper ($10).
At weekday lunch, the 'Bird's jerk chicken gets paired with regulation rice 'n' peas and creamy purple cabbage coleslaw ($6) as does the unusually tender bone-in curried goat ($7). Sunday brunch calls for donut-like festival fritters smothered in maple syrup and peameal ($6.50). Creary's also planning a backyard bacchanal in honour of Jamaican Independence Day from noon till 9 pm on August 10.
"We'll be doing tofu kebabs for seven bucks and jerk lobster tails for 15," says Creary. "There'll be sugar-cane martinis ($7) and rum punch ($5) and free blueberry Sno-cones for the kids, too."
Now, that's cause for celebration!