Three words: They Have Ting.*
Kingston Café was closed for remodeling... for three years. For a restaurant in Southern California, a "closed for remodeling" sign is too often a death knell, a saddened shake of the head until something new tries to open in its place. However, Kingston has been reopened by the same family, with new chefs, a more dignified interior, and new Caribbean-fusion finesse.
The interior is divided into small two- and three-table rooms, each with its own title (we want to reserve a party in "Ackee" one day), and a large, pumpkin-hued back room where the bar and the band is. Reggae, naturally, lopes through the speakers**... and hey! I have this Trojan Box Set compilation at home! I knew I recognized Max Romeo's "My Jamaican Collie".
The dinner dishes are marinated masterpieces. The Jerked Chicken is a deep mahogany on the outside, lying in a thick brown stew sauce; gentle prodding causes the meat to fall away from the bone like wispy garments at a burlesque performance. I ordered it spicy, which means a higher concentration of scotch bonnet peppers evilly plotting my demise, and a low, stalking mouth-burn that is distracted only by the cool mango salsa.
The quintessentially Jamaican dish that is Curried Goat has a similar presentation but is stewed with onion and thyme, made into a liquid velvet with a gentle pimento flair that zips around the sides of the mouth. Bianca made a conscious decision to interrupt her six-month period of not eating meat to have curried goat. This, like the Jerked Chicken, comes with white rice, or a solid support-cylinder of red beans and rice, and a sunny batch of carrot slices and green beans which is tastier and friendlier than "carrots and green beans" sounds like.
For lunch there's a Jerk Burger, the patty darkened and dried by the jerk seasoning. Ordering this spicy may produce coughing and possibly hiccups, cooled infinitesimally by the mango salsa. The sesame seed bun is simple, but offering a burger at all on a Jamaican menu is merely a nod to our U.S. palates. The french fries are crisply moist and lightly seasoned, and need no dipping sauce or ketchup.
Oh, do this: get a side of the Fried Plantains. They are sweeter even than Bossa Nova's, and keep their golden texture. Also try the long slices of festival, a cornmeal fritter that's as moist as buttered cornbread and sweet as innocence.
There's Rum Cake and sugared walnuts for dessert, dense and lush with the scent of cane, but we are full, so full. Seen? How I nyam so much?
They do not (yet) have Blue Mountain coffee, and that is a cause for temporary sadness... but we spoke to them and they did tell us that new dishes were forthcoming... allow me to place the lovely words "ackee and saltfish" in your mind. Yu tan deh!
The building belongs partially to a Women's Diagnostic Imaging Group, and the parking lot belongs to the Salvation Army, so of course I think this is a perfectly sensible place to have a Jamaican restaurant (I, however, think there should be Caribbean restaurants placed everywhere, so my opinion is biased). You can park in the lot for dinner as long as you inform the waiter. Kingston Café is closed Sundays and Mondays, but since live reggae plays every Saturday night, maybe that's a necessary two-day recovery ting.
* If you know us, you know our love for this grapefruit soda and the memories it brings.
** Thank you, Kingston Café, for not automatically busting out the easily-recognized-by-tourists "Jammin'" and "One Love" in resort fashion.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Jamaican, Pasadena/San Gabriel/Alhambra )
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