So the #mandemvfood phone pops off and to our surprise we receive a message directly from the @levismokehouse Operations Manager following our last review!! He wants a contact number… Uh-oh!! Seems like he wants to have words… Gulp!! Yes the #mandem were a little prang at first, are we in trouble?? Did we go too far with our review? Was it too harsh? Can we be sued? Lol Nah man we are @mandemvfood we stand firm by our words and we only speak the truth!! A phonecall later and we are invited back as personal guests of the management… Result!! People are taking notice!!
So the day is upon us and with the thought of giving them the chance to redeem themself the #mandem were enthused… Let’s go!
We arrive in the restaurant and are seated within 5 minutes… already an improvement!! We sit down and none other than the main man himself Mr Levi Roots is sitting a few tables away!! We later have the pleasure of him joining us, having a chat, sharing his knowledge and experience and giving us an insight into the concept and model of his “Rasta-raunt” and the way the food is prepared. Definitely one of the highlights of the evening!! Anyway, onto the food!
Starters… Following the abysmal chicken wings from our last visit, we had to order the
jerk chicken wings again (to compare to our last visit and to check whether last time was a one off or a constant) they were the same… wings with minimal sauce but with fresher, more succulent chicken. Still no hint of jerk flavour so unsure they should carry that name. Of course, we had to order the Bajan fish cakes again – still repping Barbados nicely!! And we also opted for the ackee & salt fish as an extra choice. We had high hopes it would be just how we remember it to be in the bright, warm Caribbean mornings on the veranda overlooking the ocean accompanied with Calaloo and some fried dumplings (bakes / jonny cakes on some islands) …how wrong we were!! Awful, We were so disappointed with the bland, flavourless dish it was almost like we’d been slapped in the face!! We actually had to ADD SALT and a little ketchup to give it more taste. Let us say this again… We had to ADD SALT to SALTFISH!
Now we’re no expert on how to cook this Jamaican national cuisine, however we’re guessing they left the saltfish to soak way longer than they should have and then heated it up for far too long and dried out the whole thing.
Mains… This time round we wanted to try something different with the mains and with this visit collectively we would have tried most of the menu. Our mains were made up of the shrimps on a stick, the Martinique Coconut Chicken Curry, boneless leg of lamb, reggae reggae jerk chicken and Jamaican curry goat and a combination of rice & peas, plain roti, sweet potato fries and sweet plantain for our sides. Talking of sides, the sweet potato fries were a much better improvement than last time (previously over-cooked, almost burnt!!) and the plantain was exactly how you would want it… Sweet, soft and not too much oil!
The shrimps on a stick although cooked perfectly fine, we feel needed maybe just a minute longer on the grill (for our palate). The flavour of the shrimp was simply average and we had to use the sauce from the Bajan fishcakes earlier to give it a little boost.
The Martinique Coconut Chicken Curry was a dubious choice because of past visits but we
thought what the heck… You only live once!! It was well presented and colourful. It put a nice smile on our faces but the smiles were soon mixed with concern and confusion as it did not taste as expected. It lacked flavour and that oomph. It reminded us of those ‘when you try to experiment in your home’ type of flavours or when you make a dish for the first time and think “Next time I’ll put more “??” in… it needed something, but what that ‘something’ is we cannot say. It did not work for us and isn’t a dish we would try again. If this is how they make their curry in Martinique… Respect to them but we’ll stick to the traditional flavours on this one.
When the jerk chicken arrived the first notable difference was that it was obviously freshly cooked, literally steaming. However, the dish still tasted more like a take on jerk chicken rather than actual jerk chicken. If the dish was listed as Levi Smokehouse chicken with sauce there would be no complaints. MDVF suggest making punters aware that it is smoked chicken, will reduce the number of complaints or install an authentic barrel to cook traditional jerk.
The lamb lived up to its previous review, maintaining its legendary status on the menu!
So…… last but not least one of the mandem opted for the traditional Curry Goat, as “more time when I’m at a family function, or when my Mum or Dad feel for it I’d be chowing down on this” (his words). Now the issue would be, due to us sampling so many ‘expert chefs’ cook this dish how would Mr. Roots’ take on it stack up?
Being the fair and honest bloggers we are, we cannot fault the curry goat. It came with rice and a side of roti. The portion size was nothing to be sniffed at. The cuts of meat were just perfect.
The taste was above average. In other Caribbean take aways, or restaurants the seasoning tends to be watered down, no kick, no pimento, no thyme, minimal black pepper but with this incarnation we were pleasantly surprised. The only thing that was missing was……… The curry powder seasoning! Now, we know many of you are thinking “WAIT, WHAT?” But in all honesty we assume this is Levi Roots’ take on the famous curry goat and not “my mum or dads version” that uses that curry power that gives more colour and definitely that authentic curry taste. Toned down for a commercial market? Maybe, but we can categorically state that you will not be disappointed with this dish!
The desserts were much improved from our last visit with a special mention going to the pineapple & chilli upside down cake… If you get nothing else on the menu, make sure you get this dish!
We were served by several staff all pleasant and attentive. Our dedicated waitress knew the dishes well and was able to give professional and specific opinion about the items on the menu. Our only gripe is that the macaroni cheese we ordered didn’t arrive until near the end of the meal so we sent it back, but that was down to the kitchen, not the waiting staff.
If you go to Levi’s Smokehouse expecting to get the tastes and flavours you expect at your everyday Caribbean take away or like what your mum or granny makes at home, forget it!! As Mr. Roots said himself during our chat “ah nuh yuh mudder or yuh granny mek it ah me mek it n is my take pon it!!” (Levi Roots) If you do visit this rasta-raunt bear in mind it is a ‘take’ on Caribbean cuisine rather than the more traditional dishes you are used to.
Following our liason with the Operations Manager and speaking with Levi directly we have a better understanding of how Levi’s Smokehouse is set up and what they are trying to do. It was explained to us that they are trying to bring Levi Roots’ take on the dishes we know and love and spread them to a broader audience. A visit to Levi’s is about the whole experience… from the moment you enter to the moment you leave. They want to cater for all palates, tastes and opinions and a leave visitors with a positive memory of how a Caribbean restaurant can be.
Based on the whole experience of the evening for our second visit we give 4 out of 6 mandems