Carribean · Comfort food · Happy Hour · Patio · Restaurants

Simply Irie – No Man’s Dinner

No Man’s Dinner is back in action! Loaf2go, T, Hangryinyyc, Sofresh and I met at Simply Irie for our bi-monthly supper club. Loaftogo and I picked Simply Irie because we wanted to support the owner after her restaurant was hit by five break-in in just two months. Also, the food is soul satisfying. For this post, let’s listen to “Spirits” by The Strumbellas.

I wanted to try the Jerk Wings ($15.95) but I learned from our server that I needed to preorder, as the wings takes 45 minutes to prepare. Instead, I ordered a large Chicken Soup ($12.95) and a large Jerk Shrimp ($29.95). Loaf2go chose the Jerk Tofu Medley ($22.95), and her spouse T picked the Ackee & Saltfish  ($24.95). He was intrigued after I told him this is the only dish Ashdoesfood eats when she dines at Simply Irie. Hangryinyyc and Sofresh shared Doubles ($7.95), a Spicy Beef Patty ($4.95), and a large Oxtail Stew ($29.95).

The chicken soup is a winner. My go-to for chicken pho soup is Pure Kitchen and Bar, but Simply Irie gives Chef Lam some friendly competition. The broth is thick and hearty. I enjoyed the generous chunks of tender chicken and the soft pieces of pumpkin, yam, and potatoes. The dumpling is simple and toothsome – a boiled dough that takes on the full flavour of the broth. The corn on the cob is sweet and crunchy. Loaf2go thought she could taste cloves in the broth. I found this soup nurturing and wholesome.

Dianathefoodie told me to try the jerk shrimp. She has excellent taste. The shrimp is sweet and meaty, so unlike the flavourless frozen shrimp I buy at Safeway and Costco. The texture is soft and succulent, similar to BC spotted prawns. The red, orange, green and yellow bell peppers were firm and juicy, sautéed in a spicy jerk sauce.

Hangryinyyc helped me set up the picture by adding her ginger beer to the background.

I tried a piece of Loaf2go’s jerk tofu. She said she was impressed that the tofu was properly fried and seasoned. Simply Irie doesn’t skimp on the sides. I’m not normally a coleslaw fan, but this version is fresh, crunchy, and creamy. The rice and beans taste mellow and earthy. I noticed the water served to us was infused with lemon. I appreciate these little details because I think it shows the chef is thinking about the whole experience of eating a meal.

Since L wasn’t at the dinner, I asked Loaf2go to take the pictures for me. She refused and told me she’d rather teach me. She said it was all about angles and showed me that I wasn’t tilting the camera to capture the best shot. I’d rather she just take the damn photo, but I think she comes from the school of “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.”

I took a bite of Hangryinyyc’s oxtail and it was even better than I remembered from my last visit. The meat fell off the bone, and each bite offered that perfect gelatinous texture. I found the sauce sweet and buttery. I tried T’s saltfish and it was tasty and unlike anything I’ve tried before. The saltiness of the fish was balanced by the mild flavour of the ackee.

T offered me two of his rum balls as no one else at the table likes the taste of alcohol. Holy moly – this is good stuff! The chocolate rum ball was warm and gooey, similar to chocolate lava cake. The vanilla rum ball was served cold, which I thought made the flavour of the rum and vanilla stand out. Out of the two, the vanilla dessert was my favourite.

On Monday evening, the restaurant was packed with a large party and it was kept bustling with a constant stream of takeout orders. Kudos to the chef who managed to pump out so many dishes, without sacrificing the quality. The temperature and freshness of all the dishes I tried was spot on. For the next No Man’s Dinner, we might check out a Chinese restaurant that offers offal and westernized Chinese food. Hangryyyc said it is just the two ends of the spectrum and none of the dishes in between! I’m game, we just need to find the right spot. If you have any suggestions, shoot me an email.

Carribean

Zion Soul Food – Caribbean and African Soul Food

Zion Soul Food is a catering business that specializes in authentic Caribbean and African soul food. For 15 years, the owner, chef and founder of Zion Soul Food – Randy Agyei – cooked in Toronto. Last year, he decided to leave the “Centre of the Universe” because he wanted to bring good food to Calgary. For this post, let’s play “Soul Man” by Sam and Dave.

I first heard about Zion from foodiegyal7. She’s posted about this place on her Instagram account a number of times. Foodiegyal is really picky about her Caribbean food, so if she raves about the food, it must be good.

If that wasn’t enough to make me try the food, Dianathefoodie recommended Zion Soul Food. Diana joked she was going to lose her Nigerian citizenship if anyone found that she said Zion’s Ghanaian jollof tastes better than most of the Nigerian jollof she’s tried in her life. After both Foodiegyal17 and Diana’s ringing endorsement, I had to taste it for myself.

I sent a direct message on Zion’s Instagram and asked Randy what was on the menu for Friday. The feature was Ginger Jollof Rice and Suya Chicken ($20). Delivery for my neighbourhood was $10. If you live in the NE or the downtown core, delivery is only $5. Delivery for lunch is offered Thursday to Sunday. If you order from the catering menu, delivery is free with a minimum purchase of $100. Pro tip – both foodiegyal7 and 4jki recommend ordering from the catering menu versus the lunch special because you get more protein versus carbs. For payment, just e-transfer the amount to Zionsoulfood@gmail.com the day of.

Holy Batman. This food is unreal – it’s a game changer for our taste buds. I can’t believe I’ve been missing out on all this flavour. Both L and I had a hard time describing what we tasted, just because everything was so unique to us.

I found the chicken incredibly moist and tender. The spices in the dry rub were so mouthwatering, it made my eyes pop with surprise. Foodiegyal17 is right. Zions food is high quality and deeply flavourful. Everyone needs to try Suya chicken.

The plantain looked like it was caramelized, the texture was gelatinous. To L, the plantain tasted a little like fried cornbread. I thought the plantain was an awesome balance of slightly sweet and savoury notes. I would order this again.

The jollof rice was chewy and fragrant, with a smoky flavour. The kwahu shito sauce was so unique – spicy, salty, with distinctive notes of fish and shrimp flavouring. I’d put that kwahu shito on everything.

I wasn’t sure if there was a proper process to eating the side of avocado. So in between bites of rice and chicken, I’d take a scoop of avocado, or a bite of raw onion and bell pepper. The corn was a winner – sweet and covered in a juicy, buttery sauce.

I’m eager to try some other Caribbean restaurants – such as Bellyfull (formerly Caribbean Choice), Krazy Jerk, and Food n Vibes. For a comprehensive list for all black-owned restaurants in Alberta, check out ashdoesfood’s Instagram account. Hitting the Sauce gives Zion Soul Food two fat thumbs up.