Jammin' in Jamaica: Miss Lily’s is now open in Dubai

EDGAR is first through the door of a riotous new Caribbean restaurant in Dubai.

Robert Chilton July 21, 2016

They say two is a coincidence, but three is a trend. If that’s true, it would appear Jamaican food is still in the coincidence stage of it's development in Dubai with a pair of restaurants opening in recent weeks, Ting Irie and Miss Lily’s. However, such is their rapid success that Dubai restaurateurs may now jump on the Caribbean bandwagon in which case we may skip straight past the trend stage and into the territory of a fully-blown food craze.

EDGAR was first through the door at the latest opening, Miss Lily’s, at the Sheraton Grand on Sheikh Zayed Road. There is no other restaurant in the UAE that looks like it. Lit up signs in every colour you can imagine, cages full of jars and cans, giant speakers lining walls, stripes, patterns – the place practically grabs you by the lapels and smacks you in the face.

The wait staff are so good you’ll want to swap numbers with them and become best friends. In the kitchen is executive chef Adam Schop, who has come from New York where Miss Lily’s has two outlets, to oversee the launch. He spoke to EDGAR about Jamaican food.

“You apply the same discipline to all types of cooking, whether it’s French or Jamaican. We cook chicken here at Miss Lily’s with the same precision as we would in a French fine dining restaurant. We don’t just throw it on the grill. We make sure it’s charred to exactly the right degree so that it retains its juiciness.

“Jamaican cuisine is ingredient driven. We combine the soulfulness, the Caribbean and the Jamaican to make dishes at Miss Lily’s. Jamaican food is Caribbean food, but Caribbean food doesn’t have to be Jamaican.

“The fish you see in Jamaican markets is shallow water fish. Fishing boats go out to catch fish on short trips, they’re not going out for three-hour journeys.

“Salt cod reflects the history and culture of the Caribbean. Cod is found in the cold waters near Canada, America and Scandinavia. In colonial times, people made long journeys to the Caribbean and they needed food that wouldn’t spoil, so they used salt to preserve the cod. Immigrants to the West Indies took this salt cod as their own dish.

“There are two types of roti at Miss Lily’s. One is combined with a dal paste. We cook lentils, and then grind them with cumin, onion and turmeric to make a paste. We stuff the bread with the paste and roll it flat. The other type of roti is called buss up shut in patois, which means busted up shirt. It’s a 30-inch roti bread that we tear up into strips so it looks like a busted up shirt.”

Here are EDGAR’s top five picks from Miss Lily’s menu:

Jerk corn
Cobs smothered in jerk mayonnaise and then rolled in toasted coconut. Messy, juicy, delicious. You’re instantly transported to the Caribbean.

Tamarind glazed lamb ribs
Blackened pieces of lamb encased in a peppery yet sweet glaze. The dollop of savoy cabbage with jerk mayo was the perfect creamy partner to combat the spice of the lamb. And the pickled apricots on the side – wow.

Jerk chicken
It’s been marinated for three days. Yes, three. The result is nicely smoky chicken that keeps the juice on the inside. A Caribbean classic.

Crispy okra and potato
Finely diced vegetables sitting on a base of that jerk mayo again. Mix it up, and get stuck in. 

Dark and stormy rum cake
You’ll be stuffed by the time you get to the dessert menu but try and squeeze in a mouthful of the comforting, spicy sponge cake with ice cream on the side.