Berty's Fine Jamaican- Palm Bay- 4.5 Stars
If you read my previous reviews of Jamaican Jerk and Things and that of Empanada King, you might have reached the conclusion that I did not care all that much for Jamaican food, and rather preferred Puerto Rican inspired dishes. This is not the case, I just don't like bad chow regardless of origin. Case in point is my recent visit to Berty's Fine Jamaican Cuisine. Pulling in I saw that the building looked like it had barely survived last Hurricane season, but the parking lot was jammed. Now, this could be due to the fact that it is in close proximity to Harris and even Electrical Engineers have to eat (or so I've been told). However, this could also be an indicator of just how good the viands were.
Upon entering I was greeted with a loud, boisterous, "Hello, mon. Welcome to Berty's Fine Jamaican Cuisine! We 'ave tree tings available today along wit de rice", in a very heavy island accent. As I do not have a good ear for accents, I was immediately intimidated, but the overly friendly smile and welcoming eyes in the owner quickly put me at ease. After hearing the items available, I put in an order for two of them, the Curried Chicken and the Chicken Brown Stew, foregoing the third item of the day (you're welcome Dr. Croft).
Awaiting my order while jammin' along with the requisite reggae from the speakers, I couldn't help but notice that while the outside looked dilapidated the inside was sparkly, inviting and gave off a warm, cozy "islandesque" feel. Being a Jamaican themed establishment, they had the obligatory Jamaican flag colors throughout. However, and this is very important, they did not paint the walls in a garish yellow, rather Berty's had the colors on the tablecloths and the walls were a subdued shade of a tawny nature. I also noticed how packed the joint was and upon overhearing quite a few conversations, it appeared that everyone in there was an Engineer from Harris on their lunch break. After a few minutes of "Engineer speak," I came to two conclusions. The first being that spending an eternity listening to electrical engineers would be a hell in and of itself and two, my food couldn't get done fast enough.
Thankfully, the staff was as proficient as they were outgoing and my grub was soon ready because, to be honest, if I heard one more bad Engineering pun/joke on transformers or resisters (No #resistance is going to drop our potential) my heart was going to explode. Who lives with these people? And how? Theirs is a world I will never understand.
Turning my attention to the foodstuffs in front of me I cravingly dug into my Curried Chicken. If spending eternity in the company of engineers is hell, then the Curried Chicken was certainly food from the heavens. The chicken is jerked and browned then slowly cooked for hours before being added to the plate. This results in chicken so tender, juicy and tasty that it soon had my taste buds blitzing like Bolt. Placed snugly on the plate with the ever-present Latin-influenced black beans and rice along with the most intricate slaw I have ever had, made this a truly sublime dish. The black beans and rice were cooked and seasoned to perfection adding just the right amount of cool to the jerk and curry of the chicken. As great as all of this was, it was the slaw that sent my palate into a food frenzy. Berty's take on the southern staple of coleslaw is uniquely inspired by island life. It was uncustomarily seasoned in a way I have never had before (I know there was fresh ginger in there) and included squash mixed in with the cabbage. Dat Shot!
Not to be outdone by its menu mate, the Chicken Brown stew was genius. In fact, it was 100 times better than any Jamaican place I have ever tried. You could tell it was made on site and was just simmerin' on the stove all day. The fresh herbs and spices sent sweat beads to my forehead and joy to my refined palate. Placed lovingly alongside the aforementioned black beans and rice with a generous helping of Berty's Island Slaw (I just coined it, use as you will) this was another home run. I must go back, however, after all, I only ordered two out of three lunch items available that day. What was that third? I have to go again, if for nothing else, to at least refresh my 50 something-year-old memory.
The Big Boy says, "When hungering for authentic Jamaican food and lacking the flight funds, head to Berty's Fine Jamaican Cuisine. It's as good as it gets on the Island, only closer. Naah mean, mon?" #iamthebigboy #bigboydiningout