Owner Delroy Schobourgh first opened Crystal with his grandma in 1995 in downtown Toronto. The current location, at Vaughan and Oakwood, is in a more “authentically” Jamaican neighborhood. But while he serves classics like fried snapper, oxtail, curry goat and jerk chicken, Delroy claims fried chicken and shrimp linguine as his top specialties. And indeed, the stream of West Indian-Canadians ordering up the linguine make it clear that downtown dilettantes have no right to decide what’s authentically Jamaican.
Back in the kitchen, Delroy tosses the al dente pasta together with crisp veggie bits, a subtly spicy red sauce and fresh, juicy shrimp with the skill of a chef from one of Bourdain’s Italy episodes. The dish is delicious, with a soul lacking in most Italian fare north of Rome. Delroy has worked in some 50 kitchens over 30 years, high-end Italian ones included, and doesn’t subscribe to a purist view of Jamaican cuisine.
He does claim to be the first business in Toronto to offer Jamaican-style porridge, and features a different flavor every day—we tried the peanut porridge, which was delicious. The jerk, oxtail, goat – and yes, his signature fried chicken — are all excellent. But Saturday’s bean and dumpling soup of the day stands out especially. It was the most ordered item next to the linguine during our visit. Delroy admits as a child, he and his pals preferred Chinese to the native Jamaican cuisine his grandma taught him to cook. Ironically Delroy’s Chinese friends bring their kids to eat at Crystal on the regularly, and joke how they now know where Delroy got his famous belly from. “I eat here everyday,” he says. “Like my grandma would say, don’t serve what you don’t eat yourself.” —Booker Sim