stush and teng-home
Now that the ‘crisis’ really has us in its grip, restaurants with any sense are stepping up their game. For too long too many have gotten away with poor food and shoddy service. That is why I think that recessions can sometimes be a good thing: they shake us from our complacency; make us work harder, fairer and more creatively—which brings us to Stush and Teng.
Rarely does a lunch-time menú inspire me to go back for dinner. But Stush and Teng (roughly translated it means ‘the best of everything’) is Spain’s only Jamaican restaurant, and since, when I went at lunchtime there was nothing remotely Jamaican about it, a return was on the cards.
But first a quick word about lunch. A reasonable €10.50 got me a glass of wine, a lollo rosso salad enlivened by hazelnuts and pomegranates, a juicy pink lamb shank cloaked in a sticky reduction on a slab of creamy potatoes dauphinoise and an inedible lime mousse, but that’s by-the-by.
A month later, a friend and I are sitting down to dinner with some very good amuse-bouches in front of us: a shot of piping hot leek soup, a ratatouille tart and a molleja (sweetbread) topped with banana and lotus root. Unfortunately, we are the only people there, which strikes me as a crying shame, though I’m reliably informed that Friday night is booked solid. There’s a reasonably good-value tasting menu for €28, but it’s veering into a land of Italo-Spanish cooking where I don’t want to go.
Á la carte we’re torn between a seafood carpacchio with lime and island mojo (a spicy sauce), and an assortment of empanadillas criollos (seafood or meat pasties prickling with chilli peppers), which I adore. Instead we start with a deconstrución de graella criolla, which is an elegant meat-fest. Carpacchio-thin strips of pink beef that’s been lightly seared on the outside alongside meatier wafers of buey (bull meat). On the side, there’s a peppery pineapple salsa and a mellow chimichurri in which to dip the meat. We also have cachapas—a traditional Caribbean pie-cum-mash consisting of layers of smashed sweet corn and avocado, spiked with a few exotic spices and topped with grilled fresh cheese. It comes with a streak of balsamic reduction, one of fragrant chilli and the whole binds into a deeply satisfying starter that wouldn’t go far wrong as a main. Portions here are big.
The mains read equally well: duck magret in vanilla with roasted barley and cinnamon (any chef would be proud of that little concoction); salted foie with Caribbean fruits flambéed in rum and the more traditional saltfish (bacalao) and ackee (the Jamaican national fruit) with thyme risotto. Alluring as these are, I can’t resist the obvious ones: jerk chicken with rice or dumplings and goat curry (except in this case the goat is lamb).
The curry arrives in a deep, beautiful porcelain bowl on a mound of nicely cooked coconut rice. The meat is incredibly tender and pulls away in delicious strings, like pulled pork BBQ in the American South, but it’s an expensive dish at €21.80. And the spicing, for my taste, is a little timid. I like my curries to do somersaults on my senses, not necessarily in a blow-your-head-off-way, but I like to distinguish what they are. Stush and Teng’s owner Lincoln, whose mum came in from Jamaica to train his team in the art of their cuisine, tells me later I should have said I like things hot at the start and they’d have happily accommodated me.
Traditionally, jerk is a dry spice mix rubbed into the meat, primarily Jamaican pepper (more popularly known here as allspice) and searingly hot Scotch bonnet peppers and then a mix of other spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, thyme and garlic. The chicken, though, has a nice additional coating of jerk sauce that is gingery, sweet and salty. It’s got that addictive street-food quality about it, and we pretty much ignore the rice.
We finish up with an interesting ice cream of orange blossom, oranges and cardamom, and a shot of rasta punch. Just enough to send you nicely into the land of nod.
PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS RESTAURANT IS NO LONGER OPEN (APRIL 2011)
Stush and Teng, Rosselló 209 (Eixample esquerra). Tel. 93 368 9393. Mon-Sat. 8am-4pm, 6pm-2am. www.stushandteng.com. Dinner, three courses plus wine: €50 per head.