For our 22nd birthdays, 2 of my girlfriends (K and T) and I went to Ocho Rios to have a girl’s weekend. It was a welcome break from the usual rush of the week and the fresh air in the country did us well, not to mention dancing the Macarena at Magaritaville while sipping on Bailey’s and Frangelico.
Before leaving Kingston I’d forgotten to check my little where to eat book, so I had no clue what were the supposedly good restaurants to look for in Ochi, K had been to Evita’s (3 years ago) and remembered the food being good. So on Sunday afternoon (my birthday) K and I walked from the guest house to Evita’s (we worked up a good appetite, it wasn’t really far and it was a rather cool afternoon so we didn’t mind the walk) expecting to have a fabulous dinner to bring what had so far been a fabulous weekend to a close.
The restaurant was pretty empty, there were only 2 other parties dinning when we arrived so we had our pick of where to sit, we took a seat overlooking the town and settled in, now hungry and very excited for what was to come. Had we known the 200 yard walk up the hill atop which Evita’s sits was going to be the most exciting part of our evening I think we would have just gone to KFC.
The waiter (very nice gentleman) brought the menu, which was ridiculously bulky and difficult to handle given its size relative to that of the table. For appetizer I settled on “Grilled Calamari with a Passionfruit, Dijon, Fresh Ginger, & Cilantro Chef’s Dressing” I could taste the explosion of flavour in my mouth and I was really excited. K hadn’t eaten all day so she wanted some soup and selected the vegetable soup. Our appetizers arrived soon enough (or maybe not, we were busy chatting so we barely noticed the time) and disappointment struck. K’s soup was oily and tasted like it came from a can and my calamari was cold (hey maybe it’s a new technique, but when I see grilled I immediately think hot, or at least warm, not stone cold), even more disappointing was the sauce, with bold elements like passionfruit and fresh ginger I was expecting that sauce to WOW me, but not even a flicker, it was plastic-y strangely enough and had no flavour and no seasoning, not even a pinch of salt.
After appetizer we were presented with “garlic bread with cheese sauce”. Unfortunately, in my world, garlic bread is not a French stick with the outside sparingly buttered with a touch of garlic powder. K didn’t get the photo of me searching under the table for the cheese that was supposed to be in the sauce, that tasted alien and again like plastic, seriously now, why has this place gotten such fabulous reviews? Maybe we ordered the wrong dishes, but no! EVERY dish should be executed excellently, is that not how it’s supposed to be?
Maybe we’re suckers for punishment, but we thought that the main course would have been better, no such luck! I had a half order of their “Jerk Spaghetti” – “Recipe requested by Gourmet Magazine! Spicy jerk sausage sautéed with garlic, onions, marinara sauce and a touch of jerk seasoning” – and a half order of a seafood pasta dish, the name escapes me at the moment, but it was supposed to be your choice of pasta (on the waiter’s advice I took the penne, in hindsight, I may have been even more disappointed if I’d taken one of the types they made in house, so I think he saved me there) with crab meat, mussels and baby shrimp in some kind of sauce; K had the “Ravioli ‘ECCELLENZA’” – Jumbo Cheese filled Ravioli tossed in an alfredo-tomato sauce with baby shrimp sautéed in garlic olive oil & laced with Sambuca Liqueur. SUPERB!”
How do I begin to explain the things that were wrong with the main course? Do I start by saying that my spaghetti was too salty and had to be sent back?
That the jerk sausage tasted like the frozen ones I usually buy because I haven’t tried making my own and they are a cinch to prepare on a busy day?
That the presentation left a lot to be desired?
That the pasta bought must have been a discount brand?
That I couldn’t figure out the raggedy looking shreds of meat on my plate?
That K’s ravioli looked like misshapen nappies?
That K’s sauce lacked depth of flavour?
That the “fresh” parmesan had been grated who knows when and was being served from a stainless steel container? or
That all the seafood used was bought frozen, even though Ochi is right near the sea with countless fishermen bringing in fresh bounty on a daily basis?
Simply put, we were sorely disappointed with dinner. We ate because we were hungry, we were full because we ate, but we had not been amazed or satisfied by the food.
We had made the wise decision to wait until after main course to have a look at the dessert menu. We had been traumatised enough and weren’t going to order anything but wanted to peruse it anyway. The selection was nothing to shout about, I don’t understand the brainwork that goes behind putting the cheapest possible brand of ice cream on your menu beside higher quality brands and I find having the different brand logos on the menu tacky. One thing kept drawing my attention it was called Tiramisu Alla Eva – “Eva’s pick me up, cake soaked in rum and espresso topped with zabaglione and cream cheese sauce”. Now, I’ve never made or had zabaglione, but from my understanding it’s a sauce usually served on its own, with berries or as a base to mousses and has to be served as soon as it’s made. I didn’t understand how the zabaglione and the cream cheese would come together for a tiramisu (which I’ve made before) and in addition there was no mention of mascarpone, I guess the cream cheese took it’s place but I think I would have much preferred mascarpone as it’s smoother in taste not as sharp as cream cheese and I would think that it would pair better with zabaglione than cream cheese. With all that said, K and I decided to try the tiramisu. Through the corner of my eye I see the waiters putting a candle into the tiramisu and I whisper to K “oh no, please don’t tell me they’re gonna sing happy birthday” before she could finish saying “you bet they are” in booming (well off key) voices the waiters sang happy birthday and as is customary in Jamaica, mispronounced my name so it was “APPY BIRT-DAY DEAR CHANTEEEELLL”. Now when people try their best at something that is obviously not their strength one must try to be supportive, so I mustered up a smile and said thank you and blew out the candle.
The tiramisu was awful, the flavours were not harmonious, there was no smoothness to them like a terribly off key band. The cake used was rather dense and heavy, the first bit was banana cake, don’t know how that got in there, the other bit seemed plain, there was some kind of liquor that seemed to have separated out or something. I don’t know what kind of rum was used (in my book, rum = Appleton, this was not the case) and the “espresso” I supposed was under the table with the cheese for the cheese sauce. Needless to say we didn’t finish the dessert, our dinner ended as it had begun, in disappointment. On the bright side, at least they were consistent.
We walked back and talked about the things that bothered us at dinner, K couldn’t understand how the food had declined so drastically in three years, I couldn’t understand how the food had ever been good and personally will not be going back any time soon, I won’t say never, cause hey! you never know