Every human being searches for that sense of inner peace, but Carl Cassel, of Irie Food Joint at 745 Queen St. West, has found it. He has built a testimonial to his life. Irie awakens your senses. Carl's paintings adorn the walls, the music is perfect, the atmosphere comfortable and of course there is the food.
Carl grew up on a farm in Jamaica where they grew potatoes and coffee. Carl was responsible for taking care of the pregnant cows and he has never stopped taking care of everyone he mee
ts. His father told him long ago, "whatever you do in life, build a garden."
Carl listened to that paternal advice and the garden at Irie is lush and vibrant. Everyone who dines there cannot help but make the connection between the restaurant and the garden.
We started with the peppered shrimp, which are served with spices from a faraway place and with a mango pineapple salsa. The spicy veggie samosas are served with tamarind dip and spinach. We are talking spicy and finger-licking.
The salads have personalities of their own. The Cheekie Lychee Salad starts with baby greens and spinach and is finished with lychee fruit, red peppers, and hemp seeds in a lychee vinaigrette. I had a conversation with this salad and the words "I love you" seemed to come up again and again.
There is so much to choose from, I could not decide.
The Butter Chicken was eaten with so much joy I thought my stomach might sing. My friend Radek had the Ackee Montego. This is ackee and codfish cooked al dente. Not since a trip to Jamaica had Radek's taste-buds been so alive.
The Shanghai Dreads is a tri-coloured fusilli with tiger shrimp, spinach, and onions topped with a spicy red bell pepper coulis. Everything here is a taste delight.
The Jerk Pork Loin Chops and the Grilled Red Snapper are favourites but if you love spicy you must have the Negril Stew - an extra spicy mixture of seafood and fish, served in a copper dome.
Carl seems to surround himself with excellence. Joining him in the kitchen is chef David, and a special guest: Greg Couillard, one of the world's most talented chefs.
I never wanted the night to end. Carl's garden will never stop growing because he loves it so much. You can literally taste the fruit of this man's existence.
FIVE STARS: (Extraordinary) A one-of-a-kind, world-class experience.
FOUR STARS: (Excellent) Superior. Memorable, high-quality menus and/or savvy service.
THREE STARS: (Good) Solid places that beckon with generally appealing cooking.
TWO STAR: (Fair) Just OK. A place not worth rushing back to. But, it might have something worth recommending.
ONE STAR: (Poor) Below-average restaurant.
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