THE JERK HUT (171 Front East, on Sherbourne, 416-367-5375) Complete meals for $11 per person, including all taxes, tip and a mango drink. Average main $7.50. Open Monday to Friday 11 am to 8 pm, Saturday noon to 8 pm. Unlicensed. Access: barrier free when entering from Front. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Remember when everybody in Toronto who wasn't Jamaican wanted to be? We smoked herb, the punky reggae party was never going to stop, and jerk was the flavour of the month for over a year. What happened? Dancehall? Dreadlocks too much work? "G'day, mate" seemed like more fun to say than "irie"?
But there's still life in the old jerk yet, if the number of customers to-ing and fro-ing the night we visit this bright little takeout facing onto Sherbourne is any indication. The lively yellow room is dominated by a cheery island mural and the counter where much of the food, including the jerk, awaits you.
The fact that jerk, which was originally Jamaican barbecue, can sit, stew-like, in a steamer tray might puzzle some, but in a world of barbecue wings from the freezer section, why stand on principle?
The large jerk pork with coleslaw and corn muffin ($7.49) has a nice spice/heat quotient that builds to a pleasing flavour peak as you work your way through the meal.
Hardcore heat seekers will need to add hot sauce, and the lean pork slices can get a little leathery. Both coleslaw and muffin are sweet and deserve attention.
The small oxtail ($6.99) is an excellent, dark stew enriched by flavoursome, fatty chunks of meat. The small curry chicken ($5.49) is not so assured. Its main spicing seems to be a small amount of generic yellow curry powder.
All of the above come with large servings of competent rice and peas.
Jerk Hut's roti the food that should rule the world is a good-news, okay-news situation.
The roti shell is fantastic. Supple, stretchy, nicely browned: it's roti-licious. The insides don't quite live up to its outside.
The vegetarian has some citrus brightness, but it's still just chickpeas and potatoes. The jerk chicken roti remains a mystery.
We didn't discover until we got home that we were given the plain boring chicken roti ($6.99) by mistake.