Downtown Kingston Culinary Renaissance

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ROK Hotel Executive Chef Volae Williams adds passion coconut sauce to his Passion Coconut Seafood Crudo. (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

Thursday food had, prior to this official dining experience hosted by ROK Hotel General Manager Jaap van Dam, Sales & Marketing Director Marlene Buckridge and Sherene Brown, Food and Beverage Manager, arrived unannounced on a Sunday. Brunch was a priority. It was a positive experience and it was obvious that, glitches aside, this property, from the art of the carefully curated public space courtesy of Jessica Jones, to the exceptional service provided by the bellhop Wuzando Salmon and the elegantly styled plates, would be a place to come back to.

Valet parking aside, we took full advantage of the many cozy vignettes that are part of the lobby and enjoyed a not so typical and very refreshing passion fruit mimosa. A relaxed tour of the hotel followed by tempting jerk chicken poppers with mango aioli and port seafood cake in Scotch bonnet rice paper topped with sweet chili corn salsa while we check out the ROK and Ocean Front suites. There were also surprise gift bags! Each stop raised expectations.

Back on the second level, it was time to open some napkins in the Palate Restaurant and enjoy a special welcome from Executive Chef Volae Williams. A quick look at the menu did not disappoint. The only challenge was knowing what to select! There was no need to frown on the menu, yes all eight, made up the tasting menu.

Entrees included a rich coconut peppercorn soup whose already perfect flavor was kicked up several notches as the coconut milk enticed the callaloo. Good start, even for non-soup lovers. The salad that followed – a fresh bowl of lettuce and Granny Smith apples, goat cheese, tomatoes, walnuts, roasted beets, a passion fruit and thyme vinaigrette and a seafood crudo to passion coconut a mixture of salmon, prawns, mussels, passion fruit juice, fresh herbs, lime juice, plantain chips, cold pressed coconut oil – was a light, tasty and fresh option . Well proportioned to leave diners satisfied but with room to continue with the final starter, the roasted tomato tartare: dried tomatoes, black olive, tapenade, pesto, beetroot hummus finished with a slice of local tomato and crisps of garlic bread. The fusion was smartly balanced with the beet complementing the power of the sun dried tomatoes and black olive.

Truth be told, Chief Williams had shown his range and could have hit pause. He did not and instead prepared fish, beef, poultry and lamb dishes.

La papillote de snapper: a contemporary take on fish roasted en papillote in coconut juice, with steamed bammy, water cracker, steamed callaloo and fried okra. Alas the fish was not fresh so did not absorb the flavors of the seasoning as we would have liked.

The chef had better luck with the small melt-in-the-mouth filet which could have been served on its own. It was so good. The poultry dish was: grilled chilli chicken breast in a mango jerk sauce with sides of market vegetables and mashed potatoes. The mango jerk sauce was an interesting notation infusing an equal balance of sweet and salty.

The ginger herb crusted rack of lamb closed the main course on a hot and tangy note. Again, the smart portions allowed each course to stand on its own.

Volae Williams is a chef responsible for reviving downtown Kingston as a culinary destination. we will watch carefully. Our eyes will also be on another young talent, pastry chef Chauntoi Perkins, who uses his classic French pastry training as a basis for incorporating flavors unique to our palates.

An impressive range of desserts ranging from mini mango cheesecakes to almond and coconut tart, fresh pineapple compote, whipped coconut ganache to chocolate coffee, sphere of the more familiar cornmeal pudding soursop, salted caramel, sweet potato pudding, orange meringue, mini gizzada, and Busta, aptly labeled “Memory Lane.”

As we enjoyed way too many treats in the relaxed ROKstone setting under a canopy of stars (we had left the Palate restaurant), with live music it would have been much easier to get to the ROK suite. Maybe next time ! Because, rest assured, there will be many other ROK parties.

Photographer: Garfield Robinson

Welcome to the Palate restaurant located on the second floor. (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

Snapper Papillote (contemporary take on roast fish en papillote) – coconut juice, steamed bammy, water cracker and steamed callaloo with fried okra (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

ROK Hotel Director of Sales & Marketing Marlene Buckridge (right) shows the Food Awards judges the ROK Hotel. (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

Jerk Chicken Poppers with Mango Aioli (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

Port seafood cake with Scotch bonnet rice paper and sweet chili corn salsa (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

Baby Greens and Granny Smith Apple Salad — goat cheese, tomatoes, walnuts, roasted beets, passion fruit and thyme vinaigrette (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

Passion Coconut Seafood Crudo – fish, salmon, prawns, mussels, passion fruit juice, fresh herbs, lime juice, plantain chips, cold pressed coconut oil, cilantro (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

Roasted Tomato Tartare — local tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, black olive tapenade, pesto, beetroot hummus, garlic bread crisps (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

Food Awards judge Christopher Reckord takes a picture of the Snapper Papillote as ROK Hotel Food & Beverage Manager Sherene Brown removes the lid. (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

Food Awards judge, Professor Lloyd Waller, appreciates the Snapper Papillote. (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

ROK Hotel Shakerah Bola-Allen barista offers passion fruit mimosa welcome drinks. (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

The general manager of the ROK Hotel, Jaap van Dam, enjoys the pepper and coconut soup. (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

Food Awards judge Oneal Johnson prepares to taste his soup. (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

ROK Hotel Sales & Marketing Director Marlene Buckridge (right) and Food & Beverage Manager Sherene Brown enjoys her Pepper & Coconut Soup. (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

Coconut pepper pot — callaloo, root vegetables, aromatic coconut cream and drizzled (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

ROK Punch (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

Food Awards Chair Novia McDonald Whyte (left) and Judge Mala Morrison admire the Land of Wood and Water artwork by Mara Made Designs. (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

Food Awards judge Adolph Raynor appreciates his ROK punch. (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

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