Eating My Way Through NYC: Day 2 - Negril Village
We were now on day two of our trip and we didn’t waste any time making plans for our night out in New York City. My friend texted me and he asked me where I wanted to go for the night. “Take me to the place where I can get the true New York experience!” I texted back with excitement as I hit each character on my phone. I was going to toss my restaurant list to the side for the night and let my friend and old neighbor, a Long Island native, show my husband and me some hot spots in New York. My friend sent a few options my way and we settled on, “Negril Village" in "The Village."
Even though I was born and raised in New York, I’m a Long Island girl. So, the city is foreign to me. When my friend mentioned that we were going to "The Village," my imagination went wild. “The Village” just sounded cool. I imagined hipsters walking through the streets, and creative people that didn’t have 9-5 jobs but made their living as artist, poets, and other careers that used the left side of their brain.
My friend and his girlfriend picked my husband and me up at our hotel. We were on our way to “The Village!” I’m not sure if the environment was different because it was a Monday night at 8:00 pm. However, “The Village” was just like any other neighborhood in New York City, with the exception of all of the lights and advertisements of Time Square. Where were my hipsters? My millennials? My left-sided residents?
We walked into “Negril Village.” It was a lot bigger than I expected it to be. It seemed like a really nice place to come with a group of friends or to celebrate a special occasion. In Florida, our Jamaican restaurants are not that large, and are usually made for casual dining. It was nice to see a sizeable Caribbean restaurant with two floors to eat and a party room downstairs in New York (do you remember where we ate on day 1?).
My parents and my husband’s mother are from Jamaica so we are not strangers to truly authentic Jamaican food. My friend’s parents are from Panama and Barbados. Even though he isn’t Jamaican, he has embraced the Jamaican culture more than most of my Jamaican friends, and probably more than anyone you know as well. Also, I figured that he had eaten at my house enough while I lived in New York to appreciate good Jamaican food, so I followed him blindly into this Jamaican treasure box that he recommended.
The menu had a great variety of drinks and options to choose from. I ordered a virgin Pina Colada and my husband ordered the rum punch. I was accidentally given an alcoholic version of the Pina Colada and the heat that went down my throat may have grew a couple of hairs on my chest. It was so strong! My real Pina Colada came and it was pretty good! My husband’s rum punch had so much alcohol, he could barely drink it.
Dis na taste right! (in my patois voice)
For our main entrée, I ordered the curry shrimp meal and my husband ordered the oxtail. I thought it was a little strange that the server asked my husband if he wanted the Austrailan oxtail or the American oxtail. Let me repeat, my parents are Jamaican, I have been to Jamaica countless times, and I have never heard someone ask that question.
Dis na sound right!
The food arrived! My curry shrimp looked great. I couldn’t wait to bite into it because it was one of my favorite dishes as a child. As I brought it to my nose, the fishiness of the shrimp hit me... and my palate rejected it because the texture was completely off.
Dis na smell right! Dis jus na right!
Disappointment hit me. I already started to count the days I had left in New York in my mind. I only had a few days left and I had no time to waste my meals on fake Jamaican food. I gained my composure and smiled at my gracious entertainers. I tried my husband’s food. You’ve got to be kidding me! They messed up on the oxtail too! It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t good. It wasn’t good by Florida or Jamaican standards.I will say that my husband took his dessert, Jamaican Rum Cake (also known as Black Cake), back to the hotel and he swears by it! He says that "It was really good." He said that it is truly authentic and it was his favorite part of the meal.
So many thoughts ran through my mind. The company was great and I was so happy to spend time with my old friend. However, I couldn’t help but to think, “This is the last time I take Jamaican food restaurant advice from my Panamanian/Barbados friend.” Oh, if you’re wondering, he thought his food was good!!
So, let’s recap night number 2. “The Village” wasn’t “The Village” (at least what I had in my mind) and “Negril Village” was a Caribbean restaurant posing as a Jamaican establishment. I would love to promote every Jamaican establishment I come across, but the truth is that I would be lying to you if I recommended this place. There has to be a list of other great Jamaican restaurants in NYC. Share some of them and I would love to go back and try them!