BEIRUT: After opening its doors almost five months ago, Patois holds its title as the first Jamaican restaurant in Beirut. Located on a solemn street in Saifi village, a residential upscale neighborhood on the outskirts of the city center, Patois reflects a serene island feel: blocking out the incessant car-honking of Lebanon’s ceaseless traffic jams.
Guests are welcomed by Patois’ contrasting interior: a ceiling striped in Rasta colors, a checkered black-and-white tile wall, a graffiti-sprayed mural, and a gleaming disco ball give the place a free and easy feel.
Patois – defined as informal speech influenced by multiple languages – is an experience that is true to its name. Jamaican food is a fusion in itself, and Patois takes a step further by blending in recipes unfamiliar to the historical culinary conquests of Jamaican food culture.
“We wouldn’t call the food at Patois authentic Jamaican food. We had to create a menu that accommodates Lebanese customers,” the manager explained as he introduced the menu.
The executive chef had carried out extensive research to create a “something-for-everybody” menu that meshes well with a culture that usually rejects the tendency to try novel dishes.
After we’d been welcomed by warm, house-made tortilla chips and a fresh pico-de-gallo dip, the meal began with the a jerk corn appetizer, a Jamaican-style grilled maize bowl mixed in rich and savory jerk-spiced mayonnaise, balanced with sweetened shredded coconut.
Next came the jerk-spiked hummus doused in a garlic, onion and coriander lime oil dressing, which confirmed Patois’ adaptation of Jamaican taste in recipes that boldly appeal to its audience’s taste buds.
More entrees were expected, but unfortunately some items were not available on the menu that day.
A starring section on the menu was the tacos of a variety of meats: chicken, beef, shrimp and lobster.
The shrimp tacos — looking mouthwatering with the combination of a soft shell with jerk-marinated shrimp lying on a bed of lettuce and avocado, drizzled with the homemade Caribbean-style mayonnaise — were served cool, which made them taste as though they never really reached their true potential.
The anticipated Jamaican dish was saved for last. Jerk chicken was served with a side dish of sweet, pickled cucumber and acidic mango vinaigrette dipping sauce. The chicken was cooked just right, but the smoky flavor of the charcoal grill masked the jerk marinade that did not come until several bites later.
For dessert, opt for the fried ice-cream, an impressive way to conclude, but for us the meal ended in disappointment.
After we’d waited a while for these crispy fried scoops, the waiter gave the second round of unfortunate news — no ice-cream owing to “a difficulty the chef faced in the kitchen.”
Overall, Patois presents a blend of food from different cultures with a tang of Jamaican flavor, best enjoyed for meal-sharing between friends.
But as it shares a wall with another popular nightlife establishment, Patois’ tranquil spot may turn into a rowdy street party late in the night. So maybe come for the drinks instead.