Whenever a new guest comes to Reggae Hut, Davis offers samplings of some of his most popular dishes: oxtails (bottom), jerk chicken (top left), and curry goat. The goat, good enough to make anyone a believer, is coated in a mild green curry. The thick, stew-like curry is delicious enough by itself, and the firm but tender goat is not at all stringy. "Every culture has its own curry," Davis said. This is Trinidadian.
Here are the oxtails in their full-plated glory:
Simmered in a deeply flavorful, slightly spicy roux, the oxtails are incredibly tender. Davis says the tenderness comes from only using young ox. Apparently, you can bake an old ox all day and he still won't come out juicy, so Davis gets 'em young and fresh.
Jerk chicken is the restaurant's most popular dish, which says something about the high heat tolerance of Houston palettes. The juicy chicken is covered in a cinnamony jerk mixture. But the heat creeps up on you. The more you eat, the spicier it gets with every exhalation. Pure sinus-clearing deliciousness, though a little hot for me.
Anticipating weaklings like me, Davis created jerk chicken salad, on the right.
It's served between two slices of Jamaican cocoa bread, a slightly sweet bread with a hint of coconut. The jerk chicken is whipped smooth with classic chicken salad ingredients, and the intense spice -- though still kicky -- gets somewhat diluted. (Phew.) On the left is Caribbean potato salad, made with beets, carrots and green peas. Although the bubble-gum hue is a bit off putting at first, it tastes sweet and smooth, with the satisfying crunch of celery.
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Creole shrimp, Davis's favorite dish to make, is a standout. The shrimp are fresh and plump, cooked in a seafood stock and doused in a tomatoey Creole stew. The shrimp have a good Cajun kick accented by the pimento in the sauce, but they're not nearly as spicy as the jerk (though Davis does have jerk shrimp on the menu.) Rice waits to sop up any extra flavorful tomato sauce.
Not pictured are the awesome homemade beverages, ginger beer and sorrel. The ginger beer is sweet with a potent blast of real ginger -- not like that stuff you order from flight attendants. But the sorrel is even better. It's made by boiling a purple Jamaican flower petal in ginger, and the drink tastes as magical as it sounds. Reggae Hut's sorrel is the perfect ambrosia for a hot summer's day, or just to extinguish the fire of Davis's jerk chicken.