Rose’s Kitchen sits tucked away in a small plaza, and is large enough to seat about 10-12 diners. They’re currently the only spot in the Greater Toronto Area that offers authentic Jamaican cuisine that’s completely halal.
Growing up as the oldest of 5 siblings, Isa, one of the main chefs behind Rose’s Kitchen, spent a lot of time cooking for his family. Using the recipes passed down by his mother Rose, whom the restaurant is named after, he learned how to cook when he was 12. Later in life, Isa embraced Islam and saw that no one around Toronto offered authentic halal Jamaican food. He tried different shops and restaurants around the city who claimed to have Jamaican jerk chicken but for Isa, who grew up making jerk chicken himself, it wasn’t up to par with how Jamaican cuisine’s most popular dish should taste. This is when he decided to open a restaurant himself, to give Toronto their first authentic halal Jamaican restaurant.
Rose’s Kitchen offers a variety of traditional Jamaican dishes, focusing its menu on its mains. Among the most popular dishes in Jamaican cuisine, as well as what Rose’s will be boasting most, are the Jerk Chicken, Ackee & Saltfish, Ox Tail, Curry Goat, and Jamaican Fried Chicken. Each meal comes with your choice of seasoned rice with beans or yams & cooked bananas.
We started with the Jerk Chicken and a side of rice with kidney beans. The jerk chicken had a rounded flavor resembling that of BBQ with a hint of spice. It had a kick without being hot and was full of flavour. Although the spices and seasoning are what we taste, the secret, according to Rose’s, is in the method of cooking it. They believe that using a stove or oven kills the flavour. They only cook their chicken over a charcoal canister BBQ, which is where the smoky BBQ flavour comes from. Along with the seasoned rice, it was a very tasty meal.
Next, we had the Ox Tail, pieces of cooked oxtail with a side of seasoned rice. The Ox Tail also has its own blend of seasoning, pan-cooked with onion, tomatoes, garlic and pepper. It takes anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour to fully marinade and prep ox tail. The result is a savoury and flavourful meat with a soft texture that’s moist and tender.
Finally, we tried their Snapper, a very large piece of fish made with the skin still on. For those who enjoy well-made fish, the snapper is a good choice. It’s lightly seasoned but full of natural flavour, soft but with a very slight hint of spice. You’ll notice that the fish is made with the skin still on and the bones still in. This may be different for many people but, the skin is where all the flavour sits and its fully edible, and the bones were easy to take out. The snapper is made three ways: pan fried, stuffed with okra and callaloo, or steamed with butter and black pepper. We had ours pan fried, and it was definitely a very tasty fish.
Along with these, Rose’s Kitchen will be carrying a Jamaican Fried Chicken, which they hope will be very popular. They’ll also have Jamaica’s national dish, Ackee & Saltfish, which is a cured cod served with cooked ackee, a pear-shaped fruit native to West Africa and popular in Jamaican cuisine. They also look forward to serving their Chicken Soup and Red Pea soup, dishes that they enjoy eating all-year round.
There’s no doubt that Rose’s Kitchen is dedicated to giving us a fully authentic experience, serving us the very same dishes they grew up eating at home. Using his mom’s recipe, her name for the restaurant, and with their love for food, Rose’s Kitchen is a great addition to the halal food scene in Toronto.