Suga waited a month to visit Jamaica’s 1st and only Vietnamese Restaurant located in Manor Centre.
Coincidentally, I went two Saturdays ago, which happened to be the Saturday following its marketing publication on Thursday, August 24 in one of our local papers, The Jamaica Observer.
It was a bad day. Positives? All their dishes such as Spring Rolls, Rice, Vegetable, Beef and Chicken dishes, Soups, Salads, Sandwiches and Dessert cost less than $800JMD. So, I was only impressed with their reasonable prices and modern decor. Apparently I wasn’t the only one. I was approached by two young ladies after I left, who asked my opinion of the experience and expressed their dissatisfaction.
I found the contrast of views to be interesting between them as foodies, and a member of the Chaine des Rôtisseurs (International Association of Gastronomy, IAG) who also dined there that day. The ladies believed that, since they are just opening everything should be on point, versus the IAG member who was quick to opine that you cannot judge an establishment within their first month of opening.
I agree with both views, but not entirely. I know of Restaurants that have gotten it right within the 1st month of opening. Nirvanna Indian Fusion Cuisine, Great Escape – Runaway Bay, Jamaica Liquor Warehouse Deli, Cellar 8 and Hard Rock Cafe – Montego Bay are some of those Restaurants, just to name a few.
Since it can be done, what excuses do the Restaurants that don’t get it right have? When is it suitable not to judge and to tolerate teething pains?
It is suitable to tolerate teething pains when the owners are willing to seek general feedback via all mediums whether face to face, over the telephone or via direct messaging. Also, when the owners are willing to have respectful, balanced discussions with dissatisfied diners and are inclined to accept honest, negative feedback and suggestions so that they can prepare themselves with solutions to turn things around as quickly as possible.
Vi Nguyen, one of the founders for 4U Vietnam Restaurant spoke with Suga, and is excited about bringing something new to the Jamaican market and would like to guide her staff to do their best to improve the Restaurant everyday.
Obstacles and Outlooks
● Lack of Owners’/Managerial Presence
It is critical for an owner to oversee their Restaurant for at least the first 3 months after opening, put in the marketing and stress test the Restaurant. Nguyen, who does not live here and has a different career overseas, got a taste of Jamaican reality. It was a reality check in terms of how long things can take to get going in Jamaica because of various regulations and just how slow the overall process is to open an establishment compared to the USA and Vietnam. It definitely surpassed her time here of 4 months, so she had to leave shortly after the opening to return to work.
There was also unexpected difficulty in getting visas for overseas staff members, which include another Chef and Manager.
She will return to Jamaica in about a week and four other members of staff from overseas, with experience in Vietnamese cuisine should be arriving in November.
● Overwhelmed staff members leading to an increased shortage of staff
After my visit, where they were one server short, a new server was trained and employed to replace the previous server.
● Shortage of Ingredients, thus lack of authenticity compared to Vietnamese Restaurants overseas, a limited menu and being unable to offer certain options at a late time on a busy day
A huge shipment of ingredients and supplies is on its way. There is a consideration to eventually buy land here and grow various ingredients such as lemon grass as well.
Why is lemon grass short in Jamaica? Despite the global demand for lemon grass essential oil and the relative ease with which the plant grows in Jamaica, it is not produced commercially.(Jamaica Observer, May 20, 2012)
***Note that one of my brothers’ favourite cuisine in the States is Vietnamese, so I had no choice but to experience it several times and I enjoyed it. Clean, healthy and fresh eating with kicks of herbal flavour. I am looking forward to having this plan realised.
● Will they take the risk of Participating in Restaurant Week this November?
Yes, but they will only be doing the Lunch Special, which is the most manageable option.
It was a pleasure speaking with Vi Nguyen. It was refreshing to hear how genuinely passionate and eager she is about her plans to improve the Restaurant. I hope they overcome the various setbacks by December and persevere, as I think there is a lot of potential for the Restaurant to improve and possibly grow into a franchise here in Jamaica.
Good luck to Vi Nguyen and the team. Suga will visit again.
Ziggy’s Restaurant and Lounge in Manor Centre has been a consistently good spot to stop by and get authentic Jamaican Cuisine for quite some time now.
The service is good and it is usually a quick in and out. There is comfortable dining space and a bar if you have time to spare. They deliver as well.
Ziggy’s offers standard Jamaican Breakfast options such as Ackee & Saltfish, Stew Chicken, Liver, Salt Mackerel etc.
Standard Jamaican Lunch or Dinner options include Curry Goat, Stew Peas, Oxtail, Fried or Baked Chicken, Escovitch Fish and more.
The prices are decent for the large servings given and good quality of food they offer. Breakast items usually range from $500JMD to $600JMD. Lunch or Dinner options are usually $800JMD with the exception of Fish ($1000JMD) and Shrimp dishes ($1400JMD). Note that prices are tax inclusive.
The Daily menu is posted on their website (See information below), where you can order online and literally ‘cut di line’.
A few of my foodie friends have posted their Lunch at Ziggy’s and it was a refreshing reminder about what is just around the corner.
Last Saturday I was ravenous after a fun outing at the beach and I knew Ziggy’s would hit the spot. I stopped by at about 7pm and ordered the Baked Chicken with steamed vegetables only. No other healthy side orders such as boiled banana, yam or baked irish potatoes were available so late in the day.
I saw some Chinese dishes on the menu too but that wouldn’t fill the void. The Chinese are taking over Jamaica slowly but surely, but our food remains Number 1. I could see one of their regulars who I like to identify as ‘residents’ enjoying her dinner comfortably by the bar. She asked me what I ordered then she told me that they cook better than the ‘real Chinese’. What she said couldn’t be far from the truth based on the appetizing whiff I got that wafted up from the kitchen.
I did not have to wait more than 10 to 15 minutes. The Chef was extremely pleasant, saying he hoped he didn’t keep me too long and showed me what was in my box before he packaged it and sent me on my way.
When I got home I could see what the resident was talking about. The steamed vegetables were similar to what you would get at your local Chinese Restaurant. I am not a fan of Salads, but it was very tasty and not everyone can get that unique Chinese flavour. My well seasoned, tender Baked Chicken topped off by a savoury sauce was impressive too.
I am looking forward to trying that Chicken in Black Bean Sauce soon.
Since I was too greedy to stop and take a picture of my dish, here are pictures from Suga Bears.
Kudos to Chef Bent and the Staff of Ziggy’s for keeping the locals happy and catering to us with a smile.
Ziggy’s Restaurant & Lounge
Location: Shop 15. Manor Centre. 195 Constant Spring Road. Kingston 8.
Have you stopped by Little Caesars in Manor Centre as yet? It is sharing the same space with the new Popeyes!
It is the most affordable and convenient way to get Pizza right now. Just pay $1000 and a Hot-n-Ready Pepperoni/Cheese/ 1/2 Pepperoni and 1/2 Cheese Pizza will be handed to you!
If they have a lot of people attending to and tell you it will be ready in 10 minutes, they mean it!
Basic toppings such as Onions, Tomatoes, Mushrooms etc. can all be added for $270JMD and Premium toppings such as Bacon etc. can be added for about $390JMD.
Combos with the Hot-n-Ready Pizza including a 2ltr soda are also available for $1600JMD.
Early days but pleasant, efficient staff.
The taste? I would still give Dominoes the edge and have it at about the same level as Pizza Hut. However, it is extremely tempting and easy to grab a Pizza on the go or other items such as Breadsticks ($400JMD) and Wings ($700JMD) that are already hot and ready as well.
Little Caesars Pizza
Shop A20 Manor Centre, Manor Park
By: Gabrielle Burgess
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The Restaurant Week Ambassador Lyme was held last Friday evening and Suga got to Dig In and preview what is coming for Restaurant Week.
For Appetizers, their Deep fried Mac and Cheese balls with codfish drizzled with a Tamarind glaze is tasty and has an interesting sweet aftertaste.
Entrées that look like winners are theChimichanga (Slivers of jerked pork wrapped in a warm tortilla served with guacamole, salsa and sour cream) and their famous Fried Chicken and Waffles, tender finger grips on fresh Belgian Waffles! Yum!
Note that the Chef loves to make things spicy so that Jerked pork may be hot hot hot like their Seafood bowl that they serve on Wednesday nights.
For Dessert they have Cuban Bread Pudding served with a warm coffee caramel that I hear is quite small in size and more Waffles! A warm Belgian waffle served with your choice ice-cream topped with a warm fruit compote.
So Dig In at Lucky Strike for the Tasty Category, costing $1850JMD (Beverages, G.C.T and Gratuity not included). You may choose any one Appetizer, Entrée and Dessert along with your salad.
Lucky Strike Lounge
Location: 195 C Constant Spring Road (Manor Centre), Kingston 8 Ph: 876-631-9980, 876-631-9797