Jamaican jerk places have been popping up in the last couple of years, but for some reason I’ve only recently realized that! One such is the endearing Little Island Cuisine, which I discovered at the Saturday Montgomery Farmers Market this summer. They started doing the market because people weren’t finding the restaurant, which is tucked away with several other restaurants and food businesses in the Knightsbridge Center in Hillsborough. It’s a bit off the beaten track, but very easy to get to and from if you’re in the Princeton area. (If you like local pasture-raised meat, you can also visit Mallery’s Grazin’ Meats butcher shop almost next door.)
After bringing home (from the farmers market) jerk pork the first time, and chicken the next, I decided to visit the restaurant and had a nice dinner there yesterday in the late afternoon. It was very quiet on a Sunday, but owner June Lee made our visit special with her friendly hospitality. She even brought us little cups of a specialty Jamaican beverage made in house from hibiscus (“sorrel” on the menu), and we loved that, but otherwise had a pitcher of water to go with our meals.
We started with saltfish fritters, and they were excellent. The salted cod had been soaked enough so it wasn’t particularly salty, but still had the mild, “sweet” taste of cod. I noticed a squeeze bottle of a sweetish red sauce on the table, and found that that went well with it, and was amused to find out later that it was…ketchup! Yep, plain old bulk purchased ketchup. I was thinking it was some kind of special house made Jamaican sauce meant to go with Jerk! Clearly, context is everything when it comes to guessing at unknown foods!
My friend ordered spicy jerk pork, and was impressed (as I had been) with the tenderness of it, and even her regular-sized order was so much that she took a good amount home. Having already had their pork and chicken, I ordered the jerk shrimp (also spicy), and enjoyed that too, again a very generous portion. For some reason, I think the spiciness is more pronounced on seafood than meat – is it just me? Anyway, I drank plenty of water, and made good inroads into their excellent rice and beans, and cabbage on the side. I could consider ordering the mild version next time, but am so disappointed when a dish isn’t spicy enough. And the plantains here are the best, and that’s saying something because I don’t always like them.
Ms. Lee also mentioned they do a great red snapper, pan seared and covered with onions and peppers. Market Price is usually around $18, and she said it’s best to call ahead and give them some notice on that. The whole (cleaned) fish has been frozen, but it’s still head-on, so I might try that some time, as I do like a good fish on the bone.
To our amusement, Ms. Lee said she herself does not like her own food spicy, and would rather have filleted fish than fish with bones any day! We had a good laugh about that, the three of us. So, if some of your family isn’t into the spicy stuff, no worries, there are plenty of other options on the menu, and June can sympathize.
We were too full to try the carrot cake Ms. Lee baked; she also makes pineapple coconut, and the selection varies.
Overall, Little Island Cuisine is a very nice spot for a casual lunch or dinner and they do catering trays too. I asked about the classic dish of Ackee & Saltfish on the menu, and Ms. Lee mentioned she’d had a catering order for that picked up just that morning. So the in-the-know Jamaican Jerk loving community is onto Little Island, and if you pay them a visit, you will be too!
p.s. Stay tuned for my September review in the Packet, it will cover another jerk restaurant in the opposite direction, over in Hightstown.