After being open for just a short period of time, the nightly hot spot in upper Manor Park, Cellar 8, now offers Saturday and Sunday Brunch and has outgrown its space. Who knew they could create more?!
Suga checked out their new, well furnished deck last Easter Sunday and will return on a day when the Wine Bar and Bistro is buzzing.
Stay tuned for their updated review!
Cellar 8 Wine Bar
Location: Shop 10, Upper Manor Park Plaza
Opening Hours: Tuesdays-Sundays, 4pm – 11pm
By: Gabrielle Burgess
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Two Tuesdays ago I visited OPA’s new location at Devon House, which is on the right side after you enter through the front gate. Persons are familiar with that area formerly known as the Devonshire.
The Restaurant was quiet and cosy. I loved the ambience outdoors, similar to a deck in the backyard by the garden. Despite that, we sat indoors. Diners were present but it was not a full house.
The staff were quiet but professional and welcoming. I suppose they were a balance in personality to the owner, Alexx Antaeus who is quite eloquent but warm and friendly.
The menu still consists of Greek favourites from the old location such as Grilled Fish and other Entrées, Pizzas, Pastas and Salads. Not much has changed in that regard. However, the menu has expanded to include additional Mediterranean cuisine options such as Paellas and more.
We ordered a Starter that consisted of 4 Greek Dips served with homemade Pita Bread ($10.35US/$1324JMD) that they make fresh daily with extra virgin olive oil. The Dips were Tzatziki (yoghurt, cucumber, garlic), Tyrokafteri (spicy feta cheese), Revithia (Chick peas, scallions, lemon juice) and Skordalia (garlic, potato). They were all quite tasty and appetizing but I enjoyed the Feta dip the most.
Alexx took our orders by memory and not by hand, which was quite impressive. He offered assistance to anyone who had difficulty deciding what they needed to order and also wanted to put our orders in quickly to the kitchen. He gave us a heads up that they may take a little while.
Well a little while was an hour. Usually we would have gotten ourselves worked up and probably left already, but some of my friends were visiting and we had a lot to catch up on before they left the next day. The Appetizer dips could only go so far and we were sipping on some vino from their list, which seems to have a decent range and selection as usual. We tried the Lamb Gyros Stix ($7.75US/$992JMD) too. That was a small but succulent serving of well seasoned Lamb.
Not only do I respect that we were given the heads up on the wait, but we were checked on periodically and given a joke or two to keep the atmosphere light, like our stomachs at the time.
Finally, attempting to have a healthy night, I had the Psari Sharas (Fresh Grilled Snook basted with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and oregano. I’ve had that dish before at Opa, so it wasn’t anything new, but the good quality in taste remained the same and it was just the right portion served with Skordalia (a purée with potatoes etc.) and Greek salad ($20.30US/$2598JMD).
My friends explored other dishes that they enjoyed such as the Gyros entrée of Lean ground Pork served with Tzatziki, Greek salad, Potatoes and Pita ($19.50US/$2495JMD), Shrimp Penne Pasta with minty cream sauce ($23.40US/$2995JMD) and the Kotosouvlaki entrée consisting of Grilled Chicken Breast on a skewer served with Pita, Greek salad and Tzatziki (19.45US/2489JMD).
There was only one unhappy camper who ordered the Kotsi, a slow-baked Lamb Shank infused with lemon, olive oil and garlic served with sautéed vegetables and potatoes ($27.30US/$3494JMD).
Some persons may say they get small servings at OPA, but it really depends on what you order. My friend did not expect such a huge Lamb Shank. While that would make the usual person happy to dig in, being quite petite in size, it was daunting for her.
When Alexx checked on the table a little after we started eating, he asked her what was wrong and she explained. Without hesitation he wanted to know how he could make her happier and she agreed with his suggestions of converting the dish into a Lamb Pasta with her preferred tomato sauce and Penne Pasta. He returned quickly to the table with the transformed dish that he whipped up in the kitchen himself and even gave her some to go in a box so it wouldn’t be too much for her at once. She now joined us as an impressed and satisfied diner.
In discussion with Alexx, we were made aware that they source their meat locally from The Meat Experts Ltd. That is a good look. Meat Experts operates out of St. Ann and they have been making quite a name for themselves with their local, high quality, hormone-free meats.
Then just when we thought Alexx couldn’t be a more hospitable host, he asked if we were dining to celebrate an occasion. He was told my Birthday was coming up and he shared that his was coming up the day before. Fancy that.
He returned with a few members of staff and demanded that everyone get their cameras out and sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to me, while he presented me with complimentary Baklava dessert (Filo layered with chopped walnuts and sweetened with honey). That was a kind gesture. I enjoyed all the love and the Dessert.
I get the feeling something may have been awry with the kitchen or staff that night so I would not let the long wait smear my first experience at the new location. The food was authentic and delicious and I appreciated the great service otherwise. So I will return.
I especially have to have some Drinks by the adjoined Reggae Mill Bar, also owned by Alex, since we missed out on it the last time as we wrapped it up early on the week night.
On the last Saturday night of April, Bongos Restaurant saved the day for me and my husband’s Anniversary Dinner after a mix up with Reservations at another Restaurant in Negril.
Bongos is located at the modernly refurbished, Sandy Haven Resort on the popular Negril Strip.
We were relieved to still have somewhere elegant to dine. There was a choice between indoor dining and outdoor dining on the terrace. We decided to stay indoors, where the lights were turned down low, but a bit too low. The ambience was not affected too much though. Seating was comfortable and the décor was unique. There was a Bar and Lounge area indoors as well.
The members of staff were courteous and knowledgeable of the items on the menu.
The menu had a wide range of items that represented a fusion of European, Asian, African and of course, Caribbean cuisines. Prices listed in US were subject to 10% tax and 10% gratuity.
Appetizers, Soups and Salads ranged from $7-$10US.
I had the tasty Jerk Shrimp Brochette ($8.50US) and my husband had the Crab and Corn Chowder ($8US), which had a rich flavour. My Brochette could have done without the lettuce on top though.
For Entrées, there were Vegetarian and Vegan options such as Vegetarian Paella, Mixed Bean Stew, Vegetable Linguini and more ranging from $12-$30US.
Other options included Fish any way you like it ranging from $17-$23US depending on size, Curried Coconut Lemon Shrimp ($18US), Asian Stir Fry Beef Sirloin ($17US), Jerk Chicken Pasta ($16.50US), Cuban Pork & Bean ($20USD), Bongo’s Seafood Paella ($19US single/$35US double) and more.
It wasn’t Lobster season but I had a craving for any type of Surf and Turf, which wasn’t on their menu. The waiter and the Chef collaborated to make me happy and offered me the Filet Mignon with large Shrimp Skewers.
My husband ordered the Filet Mignon on its own.
Although the wait was extremely long, we had a year of marriage to reminisce on as well as exciting thoughts for our future and the wait was worthwhile when the food arrived.
Our cuts of Beef came medium rare, as requested. So we were pleased with the tenderness and succulent juices and flavours emerging from the Beef.
We were too full for Dessert but we enjoyed a few drinks from the Bar. I have had better Mojitos but the blended drinks were on point.
I recommend Bongos Restaurant for a decent place to dine in Negril if you are not famished or in a rush. The wait may be long but you have the leisure of having a good chit chat over a few drinks in a lovely ambience until delectable food arrives.
Bongos Restaurant @ Sandy Haven Resort
Location: Norman Manley Boulevard. Negril, Jamaica
Opening Hr: 6pm
By: Gabrielle Burgess
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Suga finally got to visit Mystic Thai in Montego Bay with her cousin a little over a month ago. The Restaurant has gotten rave reviews since it opened its doors about summer last year.
It was a rainy Saturday night on May 6th at about 9pm. My cousin, Tina Davis, who is no stranger to their Lunch Specials walked into familiar territory, while I was instantly impressed by the modern décor consisting of elegant Thai silk lanterns and comfortable seating. The heavy rains probably kept away most diners but a few were still there and I appreciated the spacious environment and ambience.
Our host and waitress were extremely polite and we were also greeted by the owner, Mrs. Kareena Mahbubani. She offered suggestions according to the pairings of the Curry with various meats and told us that their Green Thai Curry is a favourite amongst her diners. So of course I decided to have it.
We started off with Shrimp and Scallion Dumplings ($10USD) and Mushroom Basil Dumplings ($8USD). They take a little while because they are steamed and they came out steaming indeed. They were delicious with the accompanying sauces to add flavour of your liking, whether spicy, salty or sweet.
We then had Crispy Fried Okra infused with Lemongrass, which was surprisingly and absolutely delightful.
We moved on to our Mains of Chicken in Green Thai Curry ($12USD) and Duck in Red Thai Curry ($18USD), along with Rice and Stir Fried Veggies. I cannot forget to mention our Johnny Walker Mojitos from the Bar that were deliciously refreshing.
Note that I mentioned the Rice, because diners at Mystic Thai and some other Indian Restaurants may notice and wonder why they are charged for Rice separately. Other than wondering what else are you to eat with the meats, there is the comparison to Chinese Restaurants where you get Rice in abundance. Mystic Thai uses Jasmine rice that soaks up the flavour of the gravies and the quality of local rice which is less expensive and used by the Chinese Restaurants is totally different.
Diners at Mystic Thai also like to mix and match their sides, not necessarily ordering Rice. Quinoa for about $6USD is a healthy option as well as Steamed Vegetables. For now, a serving of Jasmine rice is an additional $3USD, but Mystic Thai will give diners the option to decide on their own soon by offering local rice with their Lunch Specials.
With regards to the Curries we chose, the popular Green Thai Curry is a blend of fresh Green Chillies, Galangal, Kaffir Lime Leaves, Lemongrass and Thai herbs. While the Red Thai Curry is the most versatile of the Thai Curries and is a blend of dried Red Chillies, Kaffir Lime Rind, Coriander Root and Cumin.
We enjoyed the exquisite blend of infused flavours that complemented each other so well. The good thing about dining at Mystic Thai is that they encourage Family style dining so the portion/serving sizes are appropriate for sharing and of course treats your tastebuds to so many different flavours. None of the flavours are overpowering either, as they balance each other out.
I was impressed with the attentiveness of the staff and overall commendable service. The owner, Kareena had such a warm and regal presence in the Restaurant, that I was propelled to give her a call for a follow up discussion about my intriguing experience.
Most of you may know that Kareena is no stranger to the business. She is also the owner of Mystic India in Whitter Village, Ironshore, Montego Bay. She studied Hotel Management in Mumbai, India and knew that she wanted to own a Restaurant from a very young age.
Kareena enjoys Thai cuisine so decided to open Mystic Thai in addition to Mystic India.
Indian cuisine is considered to be fattening so as a fitness enthusiast that endures the struggle of being a foodie, I came to understand that Thai Cuisine is one of the healthiest foods you can eat. This must explain why instead of feeling heavy and full as I often do after indulging in Indian cuisine, I felt satisfied but still light after our dinner at Mystic Thai.
What makes Thai Cuisine healthy?
Natural and fresh ingredients are paired with a variety of spices, herbs and vegetables. Examples of such are turmeric, galangal, coriander, lemongrass and fresh chillies that have immune-boosting and disease-fighting power.
At Mystic Thai, everything is made to order and all the spices, herbs and vegetables are prepped fresh every morning. Their gravies are made daily. Note that at least 16 different ingredients are used in every dish so there is a lot that goes into their preparation and she has quite an efficient team. Indian cuisine on the other hand uses five basic gravies that are made and stored.
The meats are usually grilled or put on the wok, which is the pot used for various methods of cooking Asian cuisine, whether it may be stir frying, boiling, steaming, roasting etc. The temperature on the wok is so high that the meats or vegetables only need a minute or two on it, resulting in all the nutrients being preserved.
With all healthiness aside, note that we still had dessert!
We closed dinner with a tasty Chocolate Mousse. I didn’t get the chance to have the Fruit and Nut Chocolate Naan from the Restaurant’s Indian dessert menu, so I will definitely be returning for that one, which seems to a favourite as well.
A few weeks ago, Mystic Thai received the award for ‘Best Ethnic Restaurant’ at The Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards along with a favourite of mine in Kingston, Nirvanna Indian Cuisine.
Congratulations to Kareena and her staff at Mystic Thai! Well deserved. It is definitely the place in Jamaica to get Authentic Thai and Asian cuisine. #sugaendorsed
Mystic Thai (Asian & Thai Cuisine)
Location: B11 – Fairview Towne Centre Unit, Montego Bay
Sunday before last, I visited Smoked Marlin Restaurant in Hopewell, Hanover for lunch with my husband.
Apart from our traditional Sweet Potato Pudding stop in Priory, St. Ann, Smoked Marlin was our last stop after a relaxed, food-filled weekend in Negril before heading back to Kingston.
Our waitress was pleasant but could have been more attentive. The wait for food including the Appetizer of Fish soup was too long. The diners that ordered just after us complained as well.
The food was tasty but did not blow us away. Servings were sizeable and made up for the delay. We had a little space left for Dessert, but they did not have all the items listed on the menu including the Tropical Crêpe that I desired.
I thought it would be a more impressive visit, but it was still a delightful experience with a picturesque seaside view to up the ante.
Date of visit: 30/4/17
NB. Ratings fill 5 stars maximum
Food quality: ★★★★☆
Serving amount: ★★★★★
Value for $: ★★★★☆
Smoked Marlin Restaurant
Location: Main Street. Hopewell, Hanover
Opening Hours: 12pm-9pm
By: Gabrielle Burgess
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