Chubby's Jamaican Kitchen Revisited in 2023 (Toronto)

During my early 30s, I frequently visited the King West area. The down-to-earth night life and boozy establishments drew me in. Then, adulthood set in and finding a restaurant that you could converse in was the goal. This year I turned 40 (and love it), but it’s reminded me to become more balanced – go out and have a night of debauchery, but also maintain those important relationships beyond a superficial drinking night.

That's how I found myself back at Chubby’s Jamaican Kitchen to fit in a little of both. The music was pumping loudly even before entering and was even more deafening once I settled into tightly packed table. Toto, we’re not in an adult-friendly establishment anymore.

Yet, after one drink and another on the way, I settled comfortably into the ratan chair and started tuning out the other patrons, laser focused on my friends … after all, I had to really pay attention to hear what they were saying.

The ackee and saltfish bites ($16 for 3, $3 for an extra piece) would make a great hors d’oeuvre. The fried dumpling base is like a fluffy biscuit topped with a mound of creamy ackee and saltfish spread studded with sweet peppers, onions, and tomatoes. It reminds me of a more fluid crab cake with a pop of freshness.

The pepper shrimp ($19) still knocked a fiery punch bringing on the scotch bonnet zing while swimming in garlic butter. The sauce seemed much thicker, so it really sticks to the seafood or acts as a dip for the crunchy bread.

I wish the kitchen had served the mixed green and mango salad ($17) with the shrimp (instead of with the mains) as it had a refreshing coolness that would have helped tame the spicy shrimp. Ultimately, it’s a salad, which was light on the mango but had some tropical flair from toasted coconut chips.

Oddly, the jerk pork ($24) was completely devoid of the spice and heat you’d expect and tasted like regular barbeque meat. If anything, my favourite part of the dish was the sauteed greens made from kale, collard greens, cherry tomato, and onion. It’s a side that would go great with anything.

As with the previous visit, Chubby’s saucier dishes continue to impress. While I would have liked more heat in the curry chicken ($19), it was nonetheless tender and flavourful, pairing well with the jasmine rice and pineapple chutney.

The gravy from the oxtail stew ($25) was also on point, and pairs well with side dishes like the rice and peas and as a dip for the fried okra ($11). The oxtail was a tad scant on the meat, but what was included was flavourful and tender. I could easily have an entire order of this to myself.

Chubby’s smartly leaves the fried plantain ($10.50) in large chunks, so they don’t dry out. They were the best plantains I’ve ever had, a slight crispiness outside yielding to the soft fruit, with a sprinkling of salt that enhanced its semi-sweetness.

In fact, with a scoop of coconut ice cream and a caramel drizzle, the fried plantains could even sub in for dessert. Consequently, much tastier than the cornmeal pudding ($12), which was too salty and had a non-existent ‘pudding’ element. If anything, the dessert was merely a piece of corn bread covered with fussy corn nuts and a scoop of mellow coconut sorbet.

I sincerely hope that the ravages of aging aren’t affecting my taste buds, but Chubby’s flavours were tamer compared to my prior visit, the spicy shrimp being an exception. Perhaps, I’ve just tasted more Jamaican cuisine since my early 30s, some Chubby's just wasn't as impressive. At the expense of sounding old, maybe things were just better in the good old days.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 104 Portland Street

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

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