By Sue Anne Tay
The search for the perfect lunch in Lujiazui is also the perfect sojourn to the hum drum office life. Our half-Jamaican colleague told us that Shanghai’s first Caribbean restaurant just opened up near our office. The food, he raved, was both reasonably priced and delicious. The next week, armed with a fistful of 10RMB bills, we were determined to find our sliver of island paradise after a frantic morning at work.
Nestled on the 2nd floor of the Food Inn Building along Zhangyang Rd (near BaBaiBan Yaohan), Uncle Mike looks like your run-of-the-mill American fast-food diner. Along with the friendly staff, posters of Bob Marley greet you as you settle down to grassy green chairs with sunny yellow tables – colors of the Jamaican flag. In the corner is a TV screen playing a travel documentary on the sights of Jamaica.
It would have been unforgivable not to start off with appetizers in the form of Uncle Mike’s famous beef patties which were warm, minced meat with the hint of jerk seasoning, enveloped in a golden flakey pastry crust. The vegetable patties were also nothing to sniff at and are highly recommended.
Then, the main course. Platters of jerk chicken (RMB23), jerk pork (RMB23) and oxtail (RMB28)) lined the table. The meats were tender as a result of careful roasting. The chicken separated gently when you prod it with a fork while the pork was wonderfully caramelized at the edges which had just the right smidgen of fat (our favorite). From the corner of our eye, someone slurped away at the oxtail stew, followed by “mmmmms” which traveled round the table.
All the dishes were paired with steamed vegetables (more Chinese than Jamaican) and rice. Not just plain rice, but reggae rice, which has a nice waft of coconut running through it. We further polished off salads, sweet potato fries and washed it all down with some ginger beer and fruit punch. Just a word of caution, the ginger beer can overwhelm the taste buds, especially if you’re not used to it.
What makes the meat taste so good is jerk seasoning. Jerk is a style of cooking native to Jamaica in which meats are dry-rubbed with a spice mixture, made up of allspice (Jamaican pimento), Scotch bonnet peppers and a sprinkling of cloves, cinnamon, scallions, nutmeg, thyme and garlic.
When we asked Chef Jeoffrey, who hails from St Catherine, Jamaica, how authentic the food was, he replied in affirmative though he pointed out he used an oven rather than your traditional open fire which would use aromatic wood charcoal. He is in the process of importing Jamaican scallions for his jerk sauce, as opposed to Chinese scallions which he has had to resort to. So yes, he is perfecting the authenticity of his food which means, future trips can only get better.
If you work in Lujiazui, Uncle Mike’s is a perfect lunch spot. It’s an easy jaunt due to swift service and for a little under RMB50, it is as close as you’re going to get to Jamaica on a Tuesday afternoon.
2/F, Food Inn
601 Zhangyang Rd, corner of Nan Quan Lu (near Babaiban Dept Store, Yaohan) 张扬路601号
(Uncle Mike’s also delivers)