We should have suspected that something was up when we walked in to a restaurant that was completely empty on a Saturday during lunch, even though it was located in an otherwise bustling shopping center. Alas, someone must jump on the grenade.
And what ensued did seem to be somewhat of a war--on decency. The last thing a patron needs when digging into an extremely HOT entrée of jerk shrimp, is to be abandoned by the server. But from the very beginning, we could tell that our server was not interested in doing any actual serving.
Once we had seated ourselves, our waiter took a while to actually get to our table. You know--because he was obviously so busy with his other, invisible customers. Since we didn't know that Harry Potter was seated at another table wearing his invisibility cloak, we just assumed the server was incompetent. Silly us.
After taking our drink orders (two waters & one Diet Coke) I'm guessing he went to the nearby Publix to fetch the soda. At least, he took about that long to return. While "helping" us with our selections, he answered my question about what kind of sauce the oxtail was stewed in by answering "brown." It was obvious at this point that we were stranded in Island Restaurant.
Yet my dining partner entered the eye of the storm, ordering the oxtail ($10.50). I, however, felt somewhat Robinson Crusoe-like and chose something that would have a bit of kick--the jerk shrimp ($11.65). Each dinner (only dinner menu items are available on weekends) comes with salad, rice or rice and peas, and plantains. At least, the dinners are supposed to come with plantains, but two slivers of a ripe banana do not constitute a side dish in our opinion.
We know that kitchens don't produce everything at the same time, but we really, really dislike when a server thinks that this means they are to bring out each plate as it is ready. I received my dinner salad first, a combination of cabbage, carrots, corn, and peas, served warm. It was good, but then again, it takes real effort to screw up when boiling cabbage. A short while later, my companion received hers. While I was in the middle of enjoying my salad, the server returned with my companion's oxtail. Just the ox tail--no rice, no plantains. A short while after that.... And so on. We waited maybe ten minutes in total for our dinner to be parceled out until finally we had everything before us. This of course meant eating some of our lunch/dinner cold. At this point, however, we were planning our escape.
That is until I bit into one of the jerk shrimp. Now, we are no stranger to heat--we love it in fact, but the problem here was that all that we could taste were scotch bonnet peppers and a hint of coconut milk, two ingredients that work great when combined with other flavors, but not so much as a lonely duo. The dish lacked flavor and was simply an attack on my already weakened constitution. Since my water glass had not been refilled for some time, I looked around for our server. He was nowhere to be found in a space the size of a walk-in closet. Apparently the rest of Hogwarts had come in without us noticing. Damn those invisibility cloaks!
My friend's oxtail was mediocre (the sauce was reminiscent of Dinty Moore Beef Stew). Had it not been for the fact that the meat was still attached to the bone, we could have sworn that this was seitan, the "mock meat" used in most Chinese take-out places. Since the serving of plantains was so skimpy, we asked for a small side order ($2.50) which came out of the kitchen in literally three seconds. When asked if they were frozen, the server replied no, but under further interrogation, he admitted that they had been previously prepared and were kept warm in the oven.
Ironically enough, when we had finished with our meal, our waiter was in quite a hurry to give us the check -- without asking if we wanted dessert or coffee. Or a raft.
Feel free to navigate the treacherous waters of Island Restaurant, Monday through Thursday from 10 or 11 a.m. until 9 p.m., Friday from 10 or 11 a.m. until 11 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. and Sundays from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.
10201 Hammocks Blvd., Miami
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