OK, Roderick – you’ve for sure taken care of us tonight; now we need some sugar!
Bax Food Co, 83 Gamon Street, Yarraville. Phone: 0402 751 108
How wonderful is it that a Jamaican restaurant is up running in Yarraville?
“Very” is the conclusion of our table of five after a spectacular mid-week dinner.
There’s enough of us to try – and share – just about everything on the menu.
It’s all good or better.
And much of it is very, very good indeed.
CTS has a long, pre-blog relationship with these Gamon Street premises – oft times Bennie and I used Gravy Train as a regular breakfast spot, those breakfasts being mostly made up of just toast and hot beverages.
Somehow along the way, Gravy Train seemed to get overtaken by foodie developments in Yarraville village, Seddon and several points in between.
So fronting here, to a refurbished location, to join my four dining companions has something of an air of circles turning and regeneration.
The makeover, both inside and out, is substantial but also very colourful and funky rustic.
It fits the casual, happy vibe of the place to a tee.
We found the service to be very fine and the wait times for our choices shorter, if anything, than we might have expected.
Cassava chips ($7) are plain of flavour but a crisp delight nonetheless.
Ackee, saltfish and mushroom patties with tomato love apple sauce ($10) are like delicate treats something like curry puffs with a taste like mum’s homemade fish pie.
Jerk roast corn with coconut jerk may ($6) is a wild, different and delicious contrast to plainer versions of roasted corn.
Yum factor: High.
In a meal of many highlights, perhaps the most giddy, moan-inducing reactions come with dishes that mirror and even best many of those we’ve enjoyed in recent months at various BBQ joints around town.
These smokey BBQ pork ribs ($13), for instance, are immense in every way – spicy, charred, OMG.
Likewise with the jerk Picapeppa hot wings ($9).
These are even spicier than the ribs, a little more piquant and every bit as awesome.
Goat curry ($24) has wonderfully tender, fall-off-the-bone meat and is gorgeous.
Our curry is served with roti bread (also available as a side, $4) unlike anything roti we’ve tried before.
It’s almost-crisp and spongey but does the mopping-up job expected of any kind of roti just fine.
Oxtail stew with butter bean and carrots ($25) has sweet meat easily exctracted from gnarly bones and is another winner.
With its star anise, you know what this reminds me of?
Vietnamese beef stew!
Only two of our party had any depth of experience with Jamaican food before our meal, but I had a strong intuition that the Bax fare would be somehow familiar in any case, perhaps based on my familiarity with New Orleans and South Louisiana food.
Such turns out to be very much the case.
The Bax goodies can sit comfortably alongside other westie options such as Vietnamese and African – right at home but strikingly different.
As chef Roderick points out, such is always going to be the case as creole food (using the word in it its most universal sense) the world over often draws on shared traditions.
As regards to pricing, the oxtail stew and the goat curry are substantial, bigger than they appear in the photographs, are sharing material for up to four (with other dishes alongside) and quite good value.
Rice ‘n’ peas ($6) is a Jamaican staple that is nice enough but gets a bit lost amid the richness of what surrounds it.
Sadly, the same can be said of our fried snapper with pickled condiments and salad ($28).
The fish is beautifully cooked but arrives at our table last of our mains and at a point where we’re just about full to the ears, its plainness overwhelmed by the spiciness that has preceded.
Full, maybe, but still able to find room for shared desserts …
Dark Shadows ($10) is an intriguing mix of condensed milk and grapefruit – it’s tangy and smooth.
But sweet potato pudding ($12) is more our go – it’s like a very dense, rich bread and butter pudding-meets-caramel slice.
Rum and raisin ice-cream ($5) is brought-in but nevertheless very good – it has, as several of my companions note, an unusually high level of “rumminess”.
In her review on Fill Up On Bread – see here – Mairead comments that perhaps Bax has gone a little overboard with the bax (box) concept in the form of too much cardboard, especially given the prices.
To tell you the truth, we have been so busy eating and enjoying we didn’t notice.
Bax Food Co, it seems clear to me, is sure to be a successful ornament to the local eats scene.
Very highly recommended!