>376 St Georges Road, Fitzroy North
A pre-birthday dinner on a Saturday night, and a (relatively) new Caribbean restaurant to try out. We head out to Sassy’s Jamaican Kitchen in Fitzroy.
The reviews online are consistent and favourable: be prepared to wait, but the food is fantastic. We arrive not long after eight to a less-than-half-full restaurant: maybe eight or nine other diners scattered around a spacious room, sparsely decorated with Jamaica posters and yukka plants, and with a gentle reggae vibe in the background.
Our waiter – the only waiter – offers us chilled water and promises to return with glasses for our bottle of Chandon. In the end, we pour our bubbly into our water glasses. The menu is sparse but enticing. Apart from a few vegetarian starters and mains, there is a choice of fish or chicken, both jerked. Curried goat is on special. In order to try everything, we choose jerk chicken to share as a starter, then one jerk fish and one curried goat.
An hour passes. Happily, I am in good company, and the conversation flows. Most of the other diners leave. Others arrive and leave with takeaway boxes of food, which is fascinating as we have not heard a phone ring once. Sassy himself comes out and starts to clear tables. I wonder why he is not cooking our food, or perhaps whether our order has been lost.
Finally, after almost an hour and a half, our starter arrives. Two pieces of barbecued jerk chicken, a generous dollop of yellow vegetable curry and an upside-down bowl of rice and peas, with a couple of piping-hot sideplates to eat from. To be honest, it is not the best start. The chicken is not heavily seasoned at all, not with chilli, not with anything much. It has either been well over-cooked, or cooked earlier and carelessly re-heated. The vegetable curry is actually quite tasty, and without it the rest of the dish would have been far too dry.
Moments after taking our plates away, the main courses arrive. The same upside-down bowl of rice and peas accompany each dish. The curried goat is not off the bone as confirmed, but it is pretty delicious. Not at all spicy-hot, but very well seasoned and very slowly cooked. Pity there is not more of it. The two smallish pieces of jerk fish are delicious too, one more spicy than the other to my taste. Again, without the vegetable curry this dish would have been far too dry, but overall it was enjoyable.
The rice and peas are a disappointment. The rice is far too dry, and the peas are kidney beans. Would have been good to see proper gunga or pigeon or even azuki peas used. And despite the diners being in single digits all night, we still have to list for our waiter what we’d eaten so he could make up our bill. He tells us this is his third night working here, and it’s the busiest night so far.
Nonetheless, it was a pleasant evening. Not sure that I would hold Sassy’s up as a perfect example of good Caribbean food: it needs a bit more chilli heat and a bit more care in both food preparation and service to get better marks. Maybe even a bottle of pepper sauce on each table so customers can adjust the heat of their food to taste.
That said, I get the best Caribbean food at home all the time so I know I am fortunate.
Will it be a regular haunt? Not sure if we would ever hop in the car and take a twenty-minute drive across town for any of the dishes we ate. But at $46 for two (not including $5 corkage which we think they just forgot) it wasn’t a bad night’s value.