From Mexico to Jamaica
"We want to be a little tropical getaway: the colors, the music, the atmosphere," says Claudette Hutchinson, co-owner of Spice Island Grill Jamaican Restaurant and Bar (10 N. Sierra Madre St., 473-8280), set to open Saturday, Aug. 20, in the former El Tesoro Restaurant & Gallery location.
Hutchinson recently retired from the Air Force after 24 years, and for a long time has run a Jamaican mobile concession with her husband Glen. (You can see them at Nederland's NedFest, Aug. 26-28.) With this first physical restaurant, she's highlighting recipes from her extended family: The oxtail stew hails from one aunt and the carrot cake from another, and an uncle is coming from New York to be the head chef at the family business.
All seasonings will be blended in-house, and the family has placed a focus on healthy menu items as a tribute to Ital, the strict Rastafari diet. As such, you'll find vegan and vegetarian options such as jerk tofu and curried chickpeas with tofu, and items like naturally sweetened Oogave sodas — a stark contrast to goat meat and Red Stripe. Lunch plates will run from about $7 to $10, and dinner from $9 to $15.
• Specializing in tofu soup and Korean barbecue in addition to traditional and contemporary Korean plates, Seoul Tofu Grill (550-2000) recently opened at 296 S. Academy Blvd., in the overhauled E Ado Korean restaurant space. Owner Mike Moon's family owns the shopping center in which the eatery is located; his mother Su is also the executive chef and formerly helped his father run a restaurant on South Nevada Avenue (attached to what's now the Sun Springs Motel).
Mike says that seven years he spent in California, where the Korean dining scene is fiercely competitive, partially informs the menu. Another influence: Korean cooking shows that his mom and sister watch, to keep current with trends in that country. Look for $7.50 bento box lunch specials and dinner items ranging from $7 noodle plates to $19 shortribs.
• The Orange Plate Café (1825 Peterson Road, 574-2060), as of next week, will ditch American items in favor of a fully Korean selection. Owner and Korea native Ramona Burns says her customers have been requesting more Korean items.
Bistro de Beaver
An update to Aug. 4's Side Dish: Chef Brent Beavers' new cooking class/restaurant concept called Conscious Table (conscioustable.net) has moved into the former Bistro de Pinto location at 26 E. Kiowa St. Beavers has partnered with local chef David Cottrill (whose wife Heidi operates Chef Sugar's Cakes and Confections). The two envision being open by Sept. 15 for classes, and by late September for weekend farm-to-table dinners.