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If You Plan on Eating at Caribbean Hot Pot Restaurant, You Had Better Know the Rules

Caribbean Hot Pot Restaurant has some great food - but you'd better know the rule before you go.

All three meals are served on a platter with a generous helping of Jamaican rice and peas (which are actually kidney beans) and cabbage slaw topped with caramelized plantains. It's tempting to try the meat and forgo the other offerings on the plate, but that would be a mistake. There's nothing superfluous about any of it. The beans and rice are no starchy, sticky mess whose primary purpose is to cut the heat of the spices. They're solid and chewy and simply yet effectively seasoned. Combined with the vinegary steamed cabbage, they bring the meal into focus and provide a more complete picture of cuisine on the island of Jamaica, where meat is cured with intense spices and coconut milk finds its way into everything from curry to rice.

Though both the curry and oxtails were flavorful and complex, the servings seemed too small. I'm not a huge eater, so I thought the medium-size portion would be more food than I needed, but both my friend and I found ourselves picking around the leftover bones and veggies in search of more meat. If you're extra hungry, pay a few dollars more for the large portion and maybe order a side dish or two.

The plantains were another standout part of the meal, though I'm a fan of them in just about any form. These were fresh plantains that had been caramelized until they were browned and crispy on the outside but still soft and banana-y on the inside. In Jamaica they're a side dish, meant to be consumed with dinner. I would have loved a bowl of sweet, starchy golden plantains with a big ol' scoop of vanilla ice cream, but I think that would probably be frowned upon.

You must call at least 30 minutes ahead of time for the escovitch fish or the owner will look at you with the same expression as the fellow on this plate.
Troy Fields
You must call at least 30 minutes ahead of time for the escovitch fish or the owner will look at you with the same expression as the fellow on this plate.

Location Info

Map

Caribbean Hot Pot Restaurant

954 Farm to Market 1960
Houston, TX 77090

Category: Restaurant > Jamaican

Region: Outer Loop - NW

Details

Hours: Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Callaloo and saltfish: $6.50 (small); $9.50 (large)
Escovitch fish: $14.50 and up depending on size
Oxtails: $9.99 (medium); $12.50 (large)
Curry goat: $9.50 (medium); $11.50 (large)
Jerk chicken: $9.50 (medium); $11.50 (large)
Beef patty: $2.25 each
Side of rice and peas: $3
Side of plantains: $4.50
Ginger beer: $2.50
Irish Moss: $4.50



View More:

Slideshow: Caribbean Hot Pot Restaurant: A Closer Look
Blog: Jamaican Him Crazy


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A few other dishes were lackluster: Beef patties, like empanadas but with a pastry tinted yellow with egg yolks and turmeric, were underwhelming and tasted like they'd been sitting out in the case all day (which, if the rest of the food prep is any indication, they probably had). Callaloo and saltfish, a breakfast dish reminiscent of collard greens and salty cod, is interesting but overly salty and vinegary. Dessert options include factory-made sweet breads that looked like fruitcakes. I skipped those altogether.

In addition to the jerk chicken, the most impressive menu offering — when I had the presence of mind to call ahead and order it — was the escovitch fish, a traditional weekend breakfast item introduced to Jamaica by Spanish settlers. It's a whole red snapper soaked in citrus juice and seasoned with a generous helping of salt and pepper, then pan-fried. It's served with escovitch sauce, a watery mix of vinegar, carrots, onions, allspice berries and peppercorns that's intended to be drizzled across the top of the fish.

Why this dish takes 30 to 40 minutes to prepare, I don't know. But it's definitely worth it to call ahead and order because few other items on the menu will transport you to the beaches of Jamaica quite like a whole fried fish with a salty crust and dense, flaky meat. The employees might complain a bit about having to prepare it, but don't let that discourage you. They're on island time, where everything moves slowly and life is a constant state of vacation. The only problem with that attitude is that Caribbean Hot Pot Restaurant happens to be in Houston, not Jamaica.

The restaurant business places a lot of emphasis on customer service, and though Dalling and his staff are always genial, they won't go out of their way for you. That can be off-putting to those who are accustomed to being treated like royalty when they dine, but it makes for a more authentically Caribbean dining experience.

Me? I just want a delicious plate of crispy, spicy jerk chicken that I'm free to eat without shooing away a waiter trying to refill my water glass every five minutes. And that's what you get at Caribbean Hot Pot Restaurant. The employees have Red Stripe to drink and waves to catch and ocean breezes to enjoy. And if you happen to get a good meal in between all the relaxation and daydreaming about paradise, you'll be one happy explorer.

kaitlin.steinberg@houstonpress.com

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6 comments
neilquan
neilquan

Im a big fan of Jamaican food, however in Houston, Ive only been to two Jamaican restaurants. Jamaica House and Reggae hut. How does it compare to those two? I find that the flavors of the same dishes vary widely from restaurant to restaurant (far greater than what you would expect from mexican / italian or Mediterranean). For example, Oxtails at Jamaica House tastes wildly different from the offering at Reggae Hut. While the flavor of the stew is closer to Jamaican Restaurants I have dined at before in other cities like Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco, the meat portion is paltry. While Reggae Hut has huge chunks of beef it tastes some what lacking, almost tame and pedestrian - still pretty good but not nearly as rich as yelp reviewers suggest (though to be fair I only had it once and maybe it was an off day). A bit of of frame of reference would help me greatly in deciding to make a drive to get some good food/poor service.


JEEP
JEEP

Thanks for the review.  I wonder why you needed to use so many stereotypes about Jamaicans in your article. It was an interesting review, but honestly if the service is not so good, it might not be because everyone is "day-dreaming about paradise." Maybe it is just a small restaurant oriented to the community and doesn't have a lot of interest in customer attention. And this idea that all the employees are drinking Red Stripe and dreaming of waves just seems based in harmful stereotypes of Caribbean people. I recommend Jamaica Kinkaid's book A Small Place. It's a good way of seeing the Caribbean from the non-tourist perspective. Also, they have a lot of healthy and vegetarian options on their menu. Did you try any of those? I wish you'd mentioned or talked about them a bit more. Thanks for the review.

gossamersixteen
gossamersixteen topcommenter

Great review Miss K. I'll have to check them out post haste.

KaitlinS
KaitlinS topcommenter

@gossamersixteen Thanks! You should definitely go there! It's a weird place, but I love restaurants that are a little idiosyncratic. CALL AHEAD FOR THE FISH!

 
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