Land At The Nest
125-17 101st Ave., Richmond Hill
Cuisine: Caribbean-Chinese Fusion
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mon-Thurs; 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Fri-Sun
Credit Cards: All Major
This is not the place for the pretentious, High Tea crowd. This is for those not ashamed to lick their fingers in public, unafraid of a food adventure.
The ticker on the awning shone brightly on the street and purple lights were strung up on a huge tree out front.
Welcome to The Nest.
The eatery is divided into a bar and restaurant. It boasts a well-stocked bar with clever lighting that sets the atmosphere and tempo. The décor is simple. A few booths dot the right side of the restaurant and tables flow on the left.
Dave Kadarnauth, the owner, guided my date and I through a meal that made my palette do figurative back flips.
The first order of business: drinks. Our waitress brought a small trio of samplers, which included sorrel, mauby and a mango drink. Kadarnauth said all the drinks are made at the restaurant. As a girl with deep Caribbean roots and a love for sorrel juice, I was poised to call them out if a hint of flavor was out of place. I held my tongue. The sorrel rivaled my mother's.
Never having had Mauby, I was open to the flavors. It had a slight taste of sweet cinnamon and at the very end a slight bitter taste. My date gave it the thumbs up. If it's an acquired taste, I have acquired it. The mango drink rounded out the trio. Its delicate flavors flood the taste buds.
After drinks, a parade of dishes vied for space at the table. First was the shrimp sambala, seasoned in an array of spices and lightly fried. The shrimps, which gained color from the seasoning, popped out from a bed of red onions and pepper. I resist making this bold of a statement, but it was the best thing I have eaten all year. When I thought the sambala could not be further enhanced, Kadarnauth suggested I try the pepper sauces made in-house.
Currently, The Nest makes three pepper sauces - classic, mango and mustard - which boosted the flavor of every dish on the table, but my favorite is the mustard pepper. Kadarnauth has hopes of bottling the flavors.
After the sambala, we tried the Banga Mary, which is a delicately fried fish. I tried it with and without the mustard sauce; either way, it was finger-licking good.
A small platter of boneless jerk chicken followed. It is not the traditional idea of jerk chicken. It was not overwhelmed with pepper to the point where you can't taste its flavors. There is a subtle hint of sweetness that is chased by a delicate peppery taste.
There was bhunjal goat, lamb curry fried rice, dhal puri, oxtail, rice and beans, lobster with ginger and scallions. There is something for everyone here. Whether you are in the mood for Chinese with a Caribbean flare or vice versa, there is a dish with your name on it at The Nest.
And if after the healthy portions there is room for dessert, ask for the homemade custard. I promise, you won't be disappointed.