Monday, February 13, 2006

Restaurant review: Coyaba, Edinburgh (aka Defeatism or how I can't resist you, chicken ku-ya)

Last Friday night. A Swedish friend of mine, Annika, has invited me and her friend Sarah, who is visiting from Aberystwyth, for a meal. We agree to go to one of my favourite places in town, a Jamaican restaurant Coyaba in Edinburgh Southside. Since I first went there for the departmental Xmas lunch in December 2004, I've been back pretty much every month. I'm literally looking for excuses to go there - a celebration of one kind or another, a visiting friend, meal out with colleagues - anything will do. The place is atmospheric, food tasty and different from my everyday fare. Granted, the service can occasionally be somewhat on the relaxed side, but it is only part of the Jamaican experience.

The menu is tempting, the reviews positively raving. And yet, all but once I've had exactly the same main dish: Chicken Ku-ya, described on the menu simply as "Stewed until 'oh so tender' in a rich brown tomato, onion and garlic gravy". The one time I didn't, I ordered Jah Bless Tofu (seasoned tofu, sweet pepper and mushrooms cooked with coconut milk), which was tasty (though how come I ordered a tofu dish at a Jamaican place is a bit unclear). I've had various bites off the plates of kind friends, and can testify that Escoveitch Fish (fresh catch of the day marinated in chef's special spices, pan - fried and served with a tomato, honey, and scotch bonnet pepper escoveitch sauce) is flavoursome and crispy, Jerk Chicken (marinated in special jerk sauce with pimento and thyme. Authentic Jamaican fare) kickingly hot, Traditional Curry Goat (goat cooked slowly until tender, rich and spicy - one of our favourites) indeed rich and spicy. The starters I've had - Festival & Callaloo (truly Jamaican special light bread with spicy Ital greens) and Ackee & Saltfish (Jamaica's national dish cooked in olive oil with tomato and served with a light corn dumpling) - especially the latter, are substantially filling and heartily recommended. I cannot comment on the puds, as I've never had any space for one left. And I'm definitely a pudding girl..

All these dishes have been absolutely delicious. Yet, as I said, I've had the same chicken dish every single time (but once). Each time before going to Coyaba, I decide to behave as appropriate to a true foodie and order something new from the menu. Use the opportunity to broaden my culinary horizon*, to tiltillate my tastebuds with something different.

Last Friday was no different. I promised to myself before leaving my place that I'll have something new.

After a five minute brisk walk across the Meadows, I am seated in the intensely deep red dining room, listening to the reggae soundtrack. The place is buzzing with satisfied diners. I nibble on the plantain crisps, sip my glass of Ruby Cabernet and glance at the menu, avoiding looking at any items containing poultry. Yep, this time I'm gonna be different and decide to go for the Fenky Fenky fish (fresh catch of the day - seabass on Friday - lightly poached in coconut milk with okra and sweet peppers and a little chilli). My friends opt for Jerk chicken and Escoveitch Fish. I'm pleased with myself. I'm gonna try something new.

So how, oh how, I end up ordering Chicken Ku-ya just 2 minutes later? Again? For the 10th time? Within one year?

I admit defeat..

* Maybe it's not my fault. My gastrological statement clearly reads that "a large proportion [of Taureans] have a particular resistance to trying anything unfamiliar."

Jamaican Restaurant
113 Buccleuch Street
Edinburgh EH8 9NG
Phone: 0131 662 9111

Valik jamaika retsepte


eat stuff said...

LOL I know what that is like, despite all the good well meaning inthe world, the waiter asks for yourorder and you askfor your fav not the new dish you are promising yourself to try hehhehe

But if you managed to break free sometimes you are really glad you did :)

Anonymous said...

I feel for you Pille! I love trying new things, and always make it a point to do so, but there is this one restaurant here that serves my favorite lemon chicken...and try as I might I order it 9 times out of 10! I even make a big show out of reading the whole menu before ordering...only to order the same lemon chicken each and every time. Haha! So you are not alone girl! :) Besides...that chicken does look really tasty!

Anonymous said...

Great post! You've convinced me that I really, really must get my butt over there before I head off to taste the real thing. I need to know what awaits me, right?

Laura said...

oh I LOVE Jamaican food, love it, love it, love it. However, like you I find something I really like and tend to stick to it, especially if it's a special-event type treat. Stinking Tauruses, when will we learn?

If you're looking to try making anything at home, however, I suggest the book "Sky Juice and Flying Fish" by Jessica Harris. I wore out one copy and had to get another.

You'll probably even have more access to the ingredients there, than I do hear, since the UK and surrounding areas do have a decent size Jamaican and West African population.

Anna said...

You are making me very, very hungry...

Joycelyn said...

hi pille, i giggled as i read your post - i am exactly the same, a real creature of habit when it comes to odering food from restaurants i frequent - the chicken does indeed look fantastic!

Ilva said...

Well, I'm definitely going to try THAT restaurant if ever get to go to Edinburgh again!And I'll bring you with me and I'll force you to try something new! OK?

Gracianne said...

I never tried Jamaican food, it sounds really tasty. I must confess - like you I tend to stick to my favorite dishes - must be the Taurus in me too.

Anonymous said...

Hi Pille, love the blog. The food was great - Aberystwyth needs something like it.

Pille said...

Clare - I'm so glad to hear I'm not the only one:)

Joey - I guess I have to find a different Jamaican restaurant to finally pick up the "courage" to try something different:)
That lemon chicken sounds great - once I get over this flu I should find a closes Chinese place maybe..

Melissa - your point about doing Jamaica first and then the local restaurant was a good one as well. But the chef is "authentic" Jamaican, so maybe you should get your butt over there before flying off indeed:)

Laura - Jamaican (or any Caribbean) food is quite a new cuisine to me. I guess shops stocking ingredients and restaurants are more common down in London - Edinburgh doesn't have a large Jamaican/Caribbean or West African presence (though one of my best friends here is Ghanaian).
Thanks a lot for the book suggestion! I love looking at the pictures in "Eat Caribbean", but the first recipe I tried didn't work at all (though it may have been my fault rather than the book's).

Anna - so does your blog! I'm popping back every now and then to drool at your pulla-picture! (and thanks for telling me about the Axis of Aevil! site)

J - you can't imagine how happy I am to hear that even someone with amazing taste(buds) like you is a creation of habit when it comes to restaurants:)

Ilva - you should! When were you in Edinburgh? And if you plan to drag me to that place - and order something different:) - you should come in 2006. Can't guarantee I'm still in Scotland after that..

Gracianne - so we both agree that the gastrology is right about the Taureans:)

Sarah - thank you for visiting my blog! And I'm glad you liked the food - I definitely enjoyed the company!

Anonymous said...

Hi Pille

You can definitely buy all sorts of Jamaican ingredients in London, particularly around Brixton and Streatham.

Regarding the Tofu - don't be so surprised to find this served in a Jamaican restaurant. Being a vegetarian is part of the Rastafarian religion so there is plenty of veggie fare to be had in Jamaica!

Marti said...

A fellow Coyaba enthusiast reporting for duty!

My meal of choice is Akee & Saltfish followed by Jerk Chicken. (although the ku-ya was good too)

I moved away from Edinburgh last year and miss Coyaba enormously...

My boyfriend is Jamaican and I am pretty certain I'd be seeing a whole lot more ackee and saltfish if he wasn't fecking allergic to seafood....