Toppa Top 10: The Best Caribbean Eats in Toronto

June 28, 2015

Cuisine: Jamaica

(632 Vaughan Road, Oakwood-Vaughan, M6E 2Y4; 416.656.6632)

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 โ€œauthenticallyโ€ 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 whatโ€™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 Bourdainโ€™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 doesnโ€™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 dayโ€”we tried the peanut porridge, which was delicious. The jerk, oxtail, goat โ€“ and yes, his signature fried chicken โ€” are all excellent. But Saturdayโ€™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 Delroyโ€™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. โ€œI eat here everyday,โ€ he says. โ€œLike my grandma would say, donโ€™t serve what you donโ€™t eat yourself.โ€ โ€”Booker Sim