R: On a recent Saturday night we brought a pair of adventurous friends to Sattdown Jamaican Grill on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City and soon found ourselves enveloped in the land of reggae, Jamaican jerk spice, and delicious ackee. This small eatery in a strip-mall between Tujunga and Vineland has occupied this bustling spot for the last 8 years, offering diners a dynamic taste of Jamaica. We could almost imagine Harry Belafonte sitting at one of the tables and bursting into song with the memorable calypso number "Day-O."
Z: Luckily we made reservations and had a table waiting for us. On Saturday nights lots of diners fill the tables, and there's a steady flow of traffic for take-out. This cozy spot offers plenty of atmosphere including a flaming, fiery red sunset gleaming through the faux cloud-covered ceiling. On the wall opposite our table was a giant fish tank of tropical fish lazily swimming among the rocks and underwater foliage.
R: Adding to the ambience were colorful, open wrought iron dividers, a rubber plant, and wall décor consisting of several large, colorful photos of guineps, breadfruit, and ackee, tropical fruits indigenous to Jamaica,
Z: Most exciting was seeing the colorful platters of food delivered to the table next to us. Wonderful aromas drifted our way and urged us to stop chatting and give some serious attention to the menu.
R: From the Nibbles and Appetizers section we chose two Veggie Patties to share with our friends Daniel and Sherette. The Cornmeal Dumplings, lightly sweetened and flavored with a hint of cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla sounded great, but we'll save those for next time, since our entrees will be sumptuous.
Z: There were five tempting vegan entrees, making it a challenge to decide on just one. Our friends, who are from Jamaica and Belize, became our menu guides and made some helpful suggestions. I ordered the Ackee with Veggies and Reuben chose the Jerk Vegan Dish with Soy Chicken. Daniel and Sherette went for the Ackee and Salt Fish. Our server asked us to choose our spice level --mild, medium, or hot. Sherette urged us to choose mild--she was well attuned to the Jamaican penchant for fiery spice.
R: We were enjoying the rhythmic beats of the reggae and bouncing in our seats in time with the music when our Veggie Patties arrived. They looked like a couple of large turnovers. Inside the jumbo patties were spinach, corn, monk beans, and tomatoes all encased in a light and flaky pie dough. Well-seasoned and flavorful, they're on my list of good things to order for an ideal starter.
Z: My Ackee and Veggies was one fascinating dish I can genuinely recommend. After taking my first nibble of ackee, I was in love with it--it was crazy delicious with its firm, yet creamy texture! This unique island fruit is bright yellow inside, the outer skin a brilliant cheery red. Cooked with onions, peppers, spinach, and tomatoes it looked somewhat like scrambled eggs with veggies and even has a texture reminiscent of scrambled eggs. The flavor, though, is far richer, lighter, and more gustatory than I remember many, many years ago before becoming vegan.
R: My Jerk Vegan Dish featured a generous portion of vegan soy chicken sautéed with red bell peppers, garlic, onions, and ginger in a very tasty blend of jerk seasoning. Sherrette and Daniel's Akee and Salt Fish is Jamaica's national dish consisting of salt cod sautéed with onions, red bell peppers, and spices. The dish is typically paired with veggies.
Z: Served on rectangular white platters, each of our selections were accompanied with a neat little mound of rice and peas along with a hearty portion of steamed vegetables composed of broccoli, zucchini, red bell peppers, cabbage, carrots, and onions. Fried plantains, a typical meal accompaniment of the island, provided the sweet treat on the dish. Sherette thought the tasty rice might have been cooked with coconut milk, while I noticed stems of fresh thyme poking out from the rice.
R: Our Caribbean friends were impressed with the meal and felt it was just as flavorful and enjoyable a dinner as any in their home countries. Sherrette was actually surprised and said the dinner exceeded her expectations. She mentioned that ackee and vegetables are often eaten for breakfast or lunch in Belize. Daniel experienced the same in Jamaica.
Z: I loved how colorful each platter was. Though this is not an all vegan restaurant, there were plenty of tasty dishes to make a vegan happy. Our hats are off to Chef Tony Hyde and his wife Nini. On each table is a bottle of Sattdown Jamaican Jerk Seasoning, a Scotch Bonnet hot sauce that's Chef Tony's own creation to crank up the heat. We must admit we were not intrepid enough to venture even a droplet of the pepper sauce. On the Sattdown Facebook page was the very fitting comment, "Come to Sattdown! Where once you satt down, you will not want to leave!"
R: We asked our server about the unusual name of the restaurant. She chuckled and told us Chef Tony's mother was always trying to get her restless little boy to "sattdown." I'm guessing the restaurant's name is a fitting tribute to his mom--but that's just conjecture.
Z: Though there is a parking lot on this strip-mall, it's not large enough to accommodate all the visitors to this bustling spot that features other restaurants and shops. There was also metered parking on the boulevard about a block away.
R: On our next visit we'll have to explore the other vegan options, that's if I can keep Zel from reordering the akee she loved so much. Here's a look at the prices for a great meal: Appetizers and Salad $3.50 to $8, Vegan Selections are $11 to $15. There's even a kid's menu that offers meals for kids under 12 only for $5 and $6. The restaurant also offers a variety of fruity beverages and several non-veg offerings featuring meat, seafood, and chicken.
Z: We'll definitely come back and plan to introduce new friends to the flavors of the island. Sattdown Jamaican Grill was pure delight! More ackee is a must-have on my list!
Sattdown Jamaican Grill
Reviewed November 2017