689 by Brian Lumley (Pre-Opening Tasting)

It’s safe to say that you’re buried deep under a rock if you haven’t heard about Brian Lumley, one of Jamaica’s most revered chefs, and who has already begun his journey on becoming a regional culinary pioneer. This under-25 gourmet prodigy has already received a number of local and international accolades, the latest being the coveted Caribbean Chef of the Year award at the recently concluded Taste of the Caribbean 2013 Culinary Showcase in Miami, Florida. (Read more here)

Brian Lumley, Chef de Cuisine

Brian Lumley, Chef de Cuisine

But, of highest note – and the realization of any chef’s dream – is his very own restaurant, 689 by Brian Lumley located in the heart of Jamaica’s capital city Kingston. I along with fellow foodies and food critics had the opportunity to partake in a private pre-opening tasting earlier this week and it was quite memorable dining experience! I had the pleasure of being accompanied by two very good friends, Joleen and Nakeeta.

To kick-off the 5 course meal, we were served a bowl of piping hot fish chowder with fresh garlic bread. The garlic bread faded into the background as I sipped away at the luxurious chowder while thinking yes, just the perfect dish to prepare the stomach for rest of the night.

Fish chowder with fresh garlic bread

fish chowder with fresh garlic bread

While we waited for course 2, our waiter, Omar, came presenting my all-time-fave cocktail, mojitos! Peach mojitos to be exact. Boy was I in heaven! Actually, make that THREE trips to heaven…I just couldn’t get enough.

Peach Mojito at 689

Peach Mojito

Then came course 2, a delectable platter of curried chicken spring rolls with thai chilli sauce. The contrasting flavours and textures worked well with this dish. Just when we thought we had enough, our tastebuds prompted us for one last bite. Next thing you know, we’re staring at the remaining sauce and wondering, how did that happen!

curried chicken spring rolls with thai chilli sauce

curried chicken spring rolls with thai chilli sauce

By time we finished a few jokes, course 3 was on its way. A healthy serving of lobster spaghettini splashed with wine got me excited. Its lobster; it’s supposed to secrete an ounce or two of endorphins. Perfectly cooked pasta, with a light tomato sauce and conspicuous chunks of lobster meat. The dish was a little shy of salt, but that was quickly taken care of. The rest was history.

lobster spaghettini splashed with white wine

lobster spaghettini splashed with wine

By this time, Brian had announced that there would have been a service break where patrons were free to chat with the chef himself, intermingle, or check out the bar.

Stephen and his peach mojito

couldn’t get enough of the peach mojitos!

After about 45 minutes or so, service resumed with course 4 which consisted of two entrées: coconut curry green split peas with house-made flat bread and a Herbes de Provence chicken breast with fresh tomato sauce. The house-made flatbread was the perfect vehicle to transport the intricate medley of flavours that was the split pea curry where it needed to be – in my tummy!

coconut curry green split peas with house-made flat bread

coconut curry green split peas with house-made flat bread

Now onto the chicken dish. Guys, believe me when I tell you that this. was. the. most. perfectly. cooked. chicken. ever. Cutting into the chicken took zero effort. Then the moment it arrived to my mouth I was instantly alerted that this ain’t no ordinary chicken! Perfectly moist, perfectly seasoned, and perfectly aromatized with a classic medley of dried herbs. The accompanying tomato sauce provided the perfect pairing to the delicate flavours. Joleen, Nakeeta and I couldn’t stop mentioning how perfect the chicken was. I even made sure I commended Brian on this in particular. It takes some good skills to get chicken this perfect!

Herbes de Provence chicken breast with fresh tomato sauce

Herbes de Provence chicken breast with fresh tomato sauce

And then, what would any good meal be without a great dessert. So said, so done. A luxurious passion fruit cheesecake that needed to be savoured one bite at a time! Hats off to the pastry chef for creating the perfect balance of sweet and tang. The seeds on top added another level of textural complexity, allowing for an even more enjoyable mouthfeel. Truly divine.

passion fruit cheesecake

passion fruit cheesecake

The second dessert was a pineapple, guava and ginger tart. I’m not really a big fan of tarts, but this was pretty yummy!  (Or probably I was too mesmerized by the cheesecake).

pinepple, guave and ginger tart

pineapple, guava and ginger tart

Indeed it was a great night. We were pleased. Our stomachs were pleased. All was well with the world.

689 door

The doors will officially swing open on September 8 at 6:00 p.m. And no, that’s not the meaning behind the “689”. Then what is it really? Well, there’s a beautifully designed mural inside with the whole shebang, so go make your reservations and check it out! (To reserve a table on opening night email bookcheflumley@gmail.com). 689 is located at 20-22 Trinidad Terrace, Kingston (Quad entrance).

Check them out on Facebook, Twitter and on Instagram.

Let me know how your experience was,

SC.

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Happy Birthday, Mom!

Today I celebrate the birthday of my mom, one of the dearest persons to me, and to whom I owe the early beginnings of my culinary journey.

mom

Mother dearest

It’s customary for me to take her to lunch at one of Kingston’s finest restaurants. But this time around I wanted something a little different. We had some catching up to do, so I figure we would drive out of town a little, have a few chats, while exploring the natural beauty of Jamaica. And that we did.

Views from the Palisadoes Strip, Kingston, Jamaica

Views from the Palisadoes Strip, Kingston, Jamaica

After about 20 minutes drive from my New Kingston apartment, a few stops and phone calls to confirm directions, and a few guesses of our own, we arrived at Gloria’s Seafood Restaurant. (No, it wasn’t my first time here, but I suck, I repeat, SUCK at directions. Pair that with a sh*tty memory and you have a killer combination.)

And so we arrived. I was excited to see mom’s reaction as it was her first time. She immediately commented on the scenic view of the mountains and sea, the serenity of the sea-breeze, and the welcomed difference of an open-air space as opposed to numerous indoor restaurants we’ve visited prior. I concur.

Views from the restaurant

Views from the restaurant

We went upstairs and got seated, well, took our seats. Two things flooded my memory about this restaurant: the food is good; but the service, well, erm, not so good. At all. Probably I am a little spoilt from the (few) occasions I’ve received good customer service in past restaurant visits. Devil’s advocate at play, it is Port Royal, a relatively small fishing town, where customer service is probably not front of mind.

mom

Nonetheless, mom and I took the opportunity to bounce around a few chats, photo opps, gossip of surrounding patrons, and some photo opps. (Yes I am aware). After a heavy 10 minutes, and after summoning one of the servers, we were finally approached. We placed our orders and returned to our chatter. Did I say two things? Make that that three. The waiter was kind enough to advise us that the food is done to order, and as such will take at least 30 minutes. And that it did. Well, about 40, but who’s counting? Luckily we had ordered some fish soup for appetizers, but those were finished in no time.

Steve

A hungry Stephen

I allowed mom first choice to see what my meal would be.  Truth be told, I was eyeing the steamed fish with steamed bammy, but mom beat me to it.

Steamed fish & steamed bammy

So I went for the curried shrimp, and festival. Not a fan of (white) rice. It didn’t matter really because the rest of the time was spent crisscrossing hands in each other’s plate.

Curried shrimp

The food was as good as I remembered. The only problem I had with the food is that my shrimp was about 1 ½ minutes overdone. Mom commented on the small portion of the bammy, but personally that’s to my liking. I was quick to preach about portion size and ratio of carbs to protein. That quickly took care of that. I didn’t mind my two measly festivals among the sea of shrimp, nor mom’s three sizeable fish beside her ½ bammy. Extra points for protein! #fistpump

protein power!

This post was not meant to be an official review so I won’t delve too deeply into that. Perfectly seasoned, perfectly priced, perfectly portioned. Crappy service and waiting time unfit for the hungry. And impatient.

I definitely would return; for both the journey and the food.

Of course, it didn’t end there. Mom and I took our photo-shoot across the road where we had a good shot of the sea in the background.

I love you mom!

mom photo collage

Steve.