Anthony

February 16, 2018
41 Mountain Boulevard
Warren, NJ 07059
  • Opened: 2017
  • Cost: $$$
  • Alcohol: Wine/Beer
  • Parking: Public Lot
  • Take Out: Yes

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February 16, 2018

Review

Spice Isle takes Caribbean cuisine upscale in Warren, New Jersey.

Jerk Chicken

Joyce Joseph, a Wall Street financial executive whose family hails from Grenada, opened Spice Isle in 2017. Look carefully at the first Grenadian flag on the EthnicNJ map and you’ll see a nutmeg clove. Grenada is historically known as the “Spice Isle” for its nutmeg, saffron, allspice (pimento), cinnamon and ginger exports.

Spice Isle incorporates many of these flavors in its menu of select pan-Caribbean favorites, along with a few Caribbean-American “fusion” items like a “Spice Isle” Ribeye steak. Jamaican “festival bread” (cornmeal fritters) is served with a spicy guava dipping sauce. Appetizers include cod fritters, coconut shrimp, and chicken wings flavored with mango or jerk spices. Mains like jerk chicken and stewed goat feature traditional spice profiles – but not the heat or intensity levels you might find at more casual Caribbean restaurants. (Homemade Jamaican pepper relish is available if you ask for it.) The fresh fish filet of the day with escovitch (a tart pickled vegetable sauce) is a milder introduction to the traditional Caribbean dish. Sides include rice and peas (pidgeon peas) cooked in coconut milk, plantains and macaroni & cheese.

Jamaican “Festival Bread”

The fruit sorbets for dessert can cool your tastebuds.

Spice Isle is BYO and offers wines from Warren County’s Alba Vineyards, one of New Jersey’s award-winning wine producers. The dining room is sleek and comfortable. On weekends, you can hear live steel drum music. Our server was more than happy to answer any questions about the menu. Joyce is a welcoming host, making sure everyone is comfortable.

You may not associate Warren, NJ, astride the Watchung Mountains in Somerset County, with diverse global cuisines, but Spice Isle joins Silk Road, which serves some of New Jersey’s best Afghan cuisine, in the same shopping plaza on Mountain Avenue.

Some 200,000 New Jersey residents have Caribbean, or “West Indian,” roots. Casual restaurants serving Jamaican and Trinidadian food are increasingly common in and around the communities, like parts of Essex, Burlington and Monmouth Counties, where many New Jerseyans of Caribbean heritage have settled. New Jersey’s diverse demographics and upwardly mobile immigrant communities create opportunities for enterprising restauranteurs to introduce global cuisines to new audiences. Like other cuisines before it – Italian and Chinese restaurants a few generations back, Peruvian and Indian restaurants more recently – it’s inevitable that Caribbean cuisine will make the leap to include “fine dining” versions. Spice Isle aspires to lead the way.

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