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WEEKLY LUNCH PICK: The Giggling Jerks does jerk bird right

Crispy, juicy, sweet, and spicy: Jerk chicken worthy of top billing at the new Sandy Hill student spot

The Place: Two young brothers, Devin & Dylan MacLeod, converted a spacious Korean restaurant in the heart of University of Ottawa’s student ghetto into a casual Caribbean-inspired restaurant. The rookie restaurateurs allowed Food Network Canada cameras to roll right up until opening night. Celebrity restaurant consultant and TV personality of the moment David Adjey parachuted in as part of his show The Opener, to help the brothers get their dream off the ground. I haven’t been able to get my hands on the episode for the full back-story, but I confess I was hoping to see something a bit more fun and whimsical for the eyes when I walked in. The tropical mural fails to elevate its bare-bones interior much above a dingy student pub. Perhaps Restaurant Makeover could swing by next? But for now, rather than dwelling on atmosphere, let’s turn our attention to The Giggling Jerk’s two greatest assets: 1) the food 2) serious kudos for bringing something new and different to the city’s dining scene. 

The Deal: The Caribbean-with-a-twist menu was apparently developed with Chef Adjey and it feels exciting, if a bit ambitious. Perhaps that explains why several items were unavailable on a recent lunchtime visit: no peanut dusted dry ribs, no cod fish fritters, no jerk hamburgers, no sautéed snapper escabeche. It was a discouraging introduction. Despite offering a few more sophisticated (and more expensive) entrées such as grilled curry shrimp and blackened tuna, the menu is largely geared to student appetites (quesadillas, turkey club wrap, wings, nachos — as well as an inexpensive all-day breakfast menu). Rumour has it banana martinis will be served soon. According to a follow-up story on the Food Network blog, the restaurant’s long-awaited liquor licence may finally be in-hand.

The Dish: Here’s a restaurant truism: if it’s in the name, it better be good. I ordered the signature dish, the Jerk Chicken, and was actually blown away. It surpassed all expectations. In fact, it was one of the juiciest, most flavourful, crisp-skinned specimens I’ve eaten in a restaurant in a very long time. A half a bird was presented on a bed of cumin-infused rice and beans, the breast meat cooked to perfection, and removed from the bone before serving. Garlicky sautéed collar greens tasted fresh and lemony and provided a perky contrast to the delightfully complex sweet heat provided by the meat’s judiciously applied sauce and seasoning.

The Cost: entrée range from $7.49 to $18.99; Jerk Chicken is $14.99

The Giggling Jerks, 332 Wilbrod St., 613-695-5375.

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