Jasmine's Say: This Theater District Spot Offers Great Rasta Pasta

Jasmine’s Say: This Theater District Spot Offers Great Rasta Pasta

The chlorophyll punch of peppers hits you first. Then a dose of Parmesan amplifies the umami. A scattering of grilled shrimp emits a subtle wave of salty air. Finally, a bunch of creamy penne – fortified with onions, garlic, and chili peppers – ignites your body’s internal oven. Anyone who has visited Jasmine’s Caribbean in the Theater District knows that Chef Basil Jones displays an impressive mastery of his native Jamaican specialties, from fiery sautéed meats to nourishing brown chicken stew. But he can also whip up a serious plate of that modern day staple that he himself helped bring in fashion: the spicy masterpiece that is rasta pasta, or as he calls it here, ” jazzy pasta ”.

To truly appreciate New York’s diverse noodle scene, one has to look beyond the eating habits of Europe and Asia, but also to Latin America and the Caribbean. Many Dominicans, for example, love their empaquetadas, a meal of spaghetti at the beach with an evaporated milk tomato sauce. Peruvians have their tallarines verdes: noodles slipped into a lush South American pesto. And Jamaica has its rasta pasta, a dish that, according to an origin story, dates back to 1985 when Lorraine Washington, a chef from Negril, topped fettuccine with tomato sauce and ackee, a creamy fruit from the island. .

Jones himself was instrumental in popularizing the spicy Alfredo-type version that can be found in all five boroughs, food journalist Korsha Wilson wrote in the the Wall Street newspaper in 2020. “Rasta pasta is a combination of my culinary background: a little French, a little Italian, and a little Jamaican,” Jones told Wilson. The chef brought his recipe, which he originally created for a European restaurant in New York City, to Footprints Cafe in Brooklyn in 2001, where he cooked for more than two decades.

Rookie restaurateurs Jasmine Gerald, originally from the US Virgin Islands, and her husband, Lloyd Hollie, opened Jasmine’s in late 2020 and appointed Jones Executive Chef in 2021, where he now serves his jazzy pasta. The location on 46th Street, also known as “Restaurant Row,” is important, as it’s a stretch of Midtown famous for feeding Broadway fans with steaks, ramen, dim sum, sushi. , modern Chinese dishes, beer, Italian cuisine, and other global and local specialties. If you, like me, believe that this block acts in some way as an ambassador for the New York food scene, it’s heartwarming to see a restaurant specializing in Jamaican and Trinidadian dishes – which can be hard to find in this part of the city – attract tourists and locals.

Gerald decorated the space with soothing pastels; shades of ocean blue, sunset orange and sea foam green serve as a welcome counterpoint to the city’s gray winter days. When the weather was a little warmer, I would sit at the bar and order a plate of Jones Brown Stew Chicken, a slowly intoxicating bird with the warm scent of ginger. But now that the cold has completely set in, I want some jazzy pasta to strengthen my bowels. Jones deploys red, green and yellow peppers, to evoke the colors of the Rastafarian flag (the dish itself is not Rastafarian, some followers of which refrain from eating entirely animal products).

A small pile of jerk wings sit on a patterned blue plate

Jerk chicken wings.
Ryan Sutton / Eater NY

Jones peppers add a distinct primavera-style crunch, before the gravy takes over and coats your tongue in succulent dairy fat. The chef uses a small dose of jerk-style seasoning and chili peppers (which he won’t reveal) for warmth and aroma, just enough to give the cream a nice tan undertone. When you bite into a slice of al dente penne, the spice level is still noticeable but moderate, sometimes not appearing until 10 seconds later. To turn up the heat more aggressively, try pairing the pasta with a side of jerk chicken; Jones brushes his wings with a mixture of thyme, allspice, chili peppers, vinegar and molasses before smoking and grilling them. Slip a fork of penne into the ink sauce for a touch of flavor that’s both sweet, tangy for the tongue, and heavily woody.

You can surely tell where things are going: I rate the $ 20 jazzy pasta (add $ 10 for the shrimp) at Jasmine’s a BUY, as well as the jerk wings ($ 14) and the brown stew chicken ($ 20). . For a different style of Caribbean cuisine in the Great Theater District, also consider heading to one of the great Cuban restaurants or Dominican lunch counters nearby. But for Jamaican or Trinidadian cuisine in Midtown West, there doesn’t seem to be any other seating options other than Jasmine’s. And that’s okay, because you will eat very well here.

Buy, sell, keep is a column by Eater New York chief critic Ryan Sutton where he examines a dish or item and decides whether you should buy it, sell it (don’t try it at all), or keep it (give it to him). a little while before trying).

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