The Reef in Vancouver serves Jamaican themed dishes including jerk chicken and pork, escovèche and tomato jalapeno vodka soup. They also offer a decent selection of cocktails, wines, Jamaican Dragon stout, Red Strip, and Carib beer from Trinidad.
I was acting chauffeur for a few hours and as that ended us 3 ended up here for a quick late afternoon lunch.
Beyond the somewhat kitschy knick knacks on the wall I did find the space quaint. It opens up to the street and is in a pocket of Main St. where there is minimal foot traffic.
The menu is a bit of an adventure to look through but certain items stood out. We started out with a couple of their Jamaican patties. Pretty disappointing. Bland minced filling housed in a greasy though still flaky dough. The plantain chips were a nice touch but very bland. My gf ordered the jerk chicken breast sandwich. Bland with practically no discernable jerk taste. Our mutual friend ordered her usual tofu sandwich which she enjoyed. I ordered a staple dish, Ackee and Saltfish. It was my first ever experience and it was quite good. It's pretty high on the richness scale and was easily the best dish at the table. All the flavours seem to mash a bit too much for my liking as the creaminess overpowered the taste of the salted cod. It was served alongside a tangy vinegar-based coleslaw which helped take the edge off a lot.
Service is about par with Main St. restaurant standards. It's friendly enough with some hastiness, unintentional or otherwise.
The drink menu looks promising as they actually have cachaca and the endorsement of the Island Thyme Chicken from the previous reviewer should warrant another visit. Otherwise, it seems only a couple of dishes here are worth vying for.
I don't think anything beyond the Island Thyme Chicken really stands out as being special at The Reef. They start you out with some Johnny bread which isn't really my thing (a bit on the bland, tastless side and with a rough, chewy texture) and that leads in to a selection of pretty standard fare food. Burgers, wraps, none of which come with anything that makes them distinct from a place such a Red Robin. This isn't to say any of it is bad. The burger I had, the Moco (or something), was actually really nice. But it was just a burger.
The Island Thyme Chicken, on the other hand, IS worth a try. It's got nice taste and texture, and comes with mashed potatoes and veggies. Nice sides.
The BURGER THOUGH, it came with these plantain fries which weren't so good. Again, bad texture, bland taste. They through some mustard dip along with it for some reason, but that doesn't help. This place is without charm foodwise and offers little to differentiate itself from the similar foods you can find everywhere around it.
The decor and service is on the nice side though. It's small but cozy, with a kitchy Carribbean feel that is well complimented by the laid-back, polite service. Again, nothing spectacular, but nothing terrible.
We've eaten here before but we were really disappointed with our meal yesterday. The best part of the meal was the johnny cake served to start and the Ipanema caparinha I had to drink.
We shared an order of jerk chicken wings. It was a decent size portion. It was nice and moist, the chicken was moderately spicy but it was so lacking in flavour and taste. I had the special of the day - halibut with salsa and a caper and cream sauce. You would think that with salsa it would be fairly spicy but again it was completely lacking in flavour. I had a hard time finding any traces of salsa with the halibut. It was reasonably priced for halibut and the fish itself was nicely cooked but it was just so lacking in taste. My husband had the ribs which although nicely cooked were just so totally lackluster.
We used to really enjoy the Reef but based on our experience last evening I doubt that we'll return.
Food: came here for lunch and was happy to find out we were having brunch! Friends had the veggie curry, jamaican me crabby eggs and chicken roti while I had the chicken curry. Everything was tasty enough but didn't seem quite caribbean to me. Perhaps I needed to order something that had the jerk sauce but curry just seemed atypical. Crabcakes on eggs were quite tasty though. Had the plaintain chips again and I think they're amazing.
Service: Came in and there were 2-3 empty tables in the restaurant but we were seated right by the door! So I had to keep my jacket on the entire meal since the door is constantly being opened and closed. We received menus but it took a good 15 minutes to get drinks. 10 minutes later, the server said she'd be back to take our orders after she delivered some coffee outside but it took her another 20 minutes to come back to us! I saw her serving others and cleaning tables when she was supposed to take our orders. Food came in good time but it also took a good 20 minutes to get someone to get our bill. Too much waiting for such a small place.
Ambiance: Great reggae type music and love the decor. Felt really light and go-lucky in there.
I don't think I'll return again unless it's insisted by someone else. The service is just atrocious and I love those plaintain chips but not enough to wait so long.
Maybe I have simple taste buds, but the Island Thyme Chicken dish I had here was amazing. Marinated in coconut milk, the chicken is covered in a sweet sauce and served with mashed potatoes. Sounds simple but I still have late night cravings months later. The mojitos here are probably the best in the city; accept no substitutes. I think the difference between the Reef's mojitos and other so called "best in the city" mojitos is that they use a simple sugar cane syrup / soda instead of sprite or 7up.
I went to the Reef for a going-away party and instantly feel in love with the exotic decor. Some may say that it's too dark for a restaurant, but I think it just adds to the experience. Makes me feel like I'm dining at a restaurant on an exotic island. (The Victoria location gives off more of a Hawaiian feel with surf boards etc.) The only reason I gave the food a 'solid' rating was because I feel the prices are a little on the high side. The food itself is great. My place of work had a party catered by the Reef and they did an excellent job with both catering and for the dining in. The plantain chips are a must-try.
Cute atmosphere -- Caribbean Beach Bar, but the food was a
disappointment. Do they even have a Caribbean cook? The menu seems to have lost it's focus. Burgers and wraps trying to hide as Caribbean food.
And curries?? -- fusion run amok. The food was really so-so. I wanted a more authentic experience.
Had the jerked salmon - the sauce was too overpowering for the delicate salmon fillet. I was expecting a drier rub. The bean/rice side that came with the salmon was merely, okay/tolerable/acceptable filler, and definitely nothing to write home about. My partner had a stuffed curry roti which was okay. I had a ginger beer which was spicy and refreshing but you can buy them at groceries stores for half the price. I thought their deep-fried dough balls were pretty tasty. Ambiance is Main street funky - but the food is not interesting or intricate enough to keep me coming back.
Substance and value over style anyday. I would recommend The Locus across the street - whose style, matches its substance.
I went to the Reef on Main with a group of friends, wanting to try Carribean food for the first time. All in all, I would say I left feeling just slightly disappointed. I was expecting a lot more flavour in the food. While some dishes were pretty good, others were quite bland.
We started with some drinks and appies - the Jamaican Beef Patty, Coco Prawns, Island Crab Cakes and Plantain Chips. The Patty was good, but I found the mango chutney was really overwhelming - I couldn't taste much other than the cloves in the chutney. The coco prawns were pretty average, but the crab cakes were delicious. I thought the curry might be too strong for the crab, but it was wonderfully balanced. The Plantain chips were good, but not a whole lot of flavour except in the jerk mayo - it was so good that one of the people in our group actually used her finger to get every last bit of it out of the little dish.
To drink, I had the Jamaican Dragon Stout, which is apparently exclusive to the Reef. It's a smaller bottle of beer - 300ml - but it's 7.5% alcohol. Despite that, I didn't really feel that it was "too" strong of a beer, as it is very flavourful and I really enjoyed it.
For my entrée, I had the Ackee & Saltfish served with rice & coleslaw. When I got my plate, I thought there was a mix-up, because it looked like an omelette with green peppers and onions. In fact, it actually tasted like an omelette. Not a lot of flavour other than slightly salty, but I couldn't even tell that I was eating fish - it looked and tasted too much like eggs - I know, weird! The rice was bland so I put some of their hot sauce on it (very good stuff) but the coleslaw was quite nice, as it was not made with mayo. Very light tasting and a nice complement to the rest of the meal.
I should have gone with the Mahi Mahi. Two people at my table had that, and I got to try a little bit. Very nice flavour, nicely cooked and a good sized portion. If I go back, I will have that or maybe try the Oxtail, as it's not a common menu item and I'm curious to see what it would be like.
I would have liked to have had dessert, but I had to leave early and didn't have time. They only have one item for dessert, which is fried bananas with ice cream.
If I did go back, I'd probably stick with appies and drinks, but I think I would try another Carribean place before going to the Reef again.
If you're heading south on Main St, past King Edward on your right hand side you'll prob notice the Reef. It has a patio with faux palm tree. It helps create a nice atmosphere and feel, and very appropriate for the food served.
I suppose this is finer caribbean/jamaican food in the city. I like the food and atmosphere. And the price prob justifies the pricing. Sit at the bar or outside on the patio, grab a cold bevvy and enjoy the looking through the menu. Nice selection of traditional and updated version of food from the Caribbean.
The food does the job and is pretty aunthentic. The portion is about right, But small for my liking. U normally judge etnic food by the popularity with the etnic food. You seldom find Jamaicans/Trinidadian etc here.. . But rest assured they would approve of the the Reef.
Professional duties have called me out of the city in recent months and I am relishing my current sojourn into delicious living. What better way to finish off my week-long vacation home than a festive "trip" to the Caribbean?
The lamb burger was a humongous offering of juicy tastiness, complete with plantain chips (or salad, if you prefer). Plantain chips are basically banana chips -- but so much better! My better half chose the mahi-mahi and enjoyed it very much. The rice that comes with it is very coconut-creamy.
A warning to the uninitiated: that harmless looking bottle of yellow gooey sauce is disturbingly spicy, so use sparingly if you're not used to it.
The host, bartender, and staff are all very friendly. No complaints here :)
It was little loud, so it was kind of hard to have a conversation without shouting. The larger groups of people, however, didn't seem to have any problems with it.
Last night was my third time dining at the Reef. I must say it was the best experience of the three - and yes, I have to say that it was better than the one in Victoria.
As expected, The Reef was fully packed when we showed up at ~7 pm on a Friday night. To our surprise, we were seated within 5 minutes and were warm and cozy - we said several times how, with the overhead heaters and the pitcher of beverage, it felt "just like being on the island!" :p
The waitress was great. She showed up at the right times to offer us menus, food and beverage selections, and also to check on us and take away used plates and cutlery. She recommended the Ipanema cocktail and the pork jerk entree. Between three people, we shared her suggestions, and three appys - yam fries, plantain chips, and jerk wings. The food was SO good! The pork was perfectly tender, and the yam fries, although not as crispy as we would have liked, were delicious with the spiced mayo sauce.
One of my companions is part Jamaican, and she told me that there was no way this was authentic Jamaican / Carribean food, but it was damned tasty.
It was a pretty loud in the restaurant, but we made out ok. Bill came to ~$60 which was very reasonable.
The only bad thing that came out of this was that now I'll be craving jerked pork...
My friends took me out for a birthday supper tonight. We sat outside and each ordered a drink and a meal. Tasty drinks and crispy johnny cakes were served. My friends were served their meals, but there was nothing for me. I assumed the waitress would be right back with mine, but she never returned. I had to call her over TWICE to ask about my food. My friends were finishing their meals and I told her that there was no point in being served my meal now. She literally ran away in the middle of talking to her (?), and eventually returned with a second drink that I had never ordered. I was so annoyed!
Although she apologized, saying that it was very busy, when the bill came, they still charged me for my $7 cocktail! Seriously? I had to call her over yet again to say, really? She looked utterly confused.
A NOT so happy birthday to me!
I will not be returning.
This place rocks. If the Reef was a girl, her name would be scribbled on guys john with the words, "For a good time, call me" above her name.
Yes, it might not be authentically Jamaican, just like Hons isn't authentically chinese ( I'm shocked too). However, when it comes to unique combination of good food, great atmosphere, and at a low price. Nothing beats the Reef. By far, this place is cheaper than the Locus, and the tempo more upbeat.
As for the food, the Mo Cah Lam Burger is pretty damn good. A great burger with hints of sweet chilli, with roma tomatoes!! (YES ROMA!! not your average jumbo sized field tomatoes). It also comes with crispy deep fried plantains with aeoli sauce on the side.
Overall, it's an awesome place for a pint with buddies or a date with "the girl you met at a club and don't think you want to bring her to a nice place yet because she just might be crazy, so I'm just going to bring her somewhere dark where I can bail if need to", this place absolutely rocks!!
if u ever get a chance to try out their special mussel dish. do it!
its a unique blend of spices that makes me want to order another to go. only served on the dinner menu thou. other than that everythin else is pretty dam good. jerk chicken and yam fries, need i say more.
The Reef. With all the trendsters hanging out here, it has no right being as good as it is.
I notice some people say this place is expensive. The entrees here range from $10-15 and it is plenty of food. I think that is pretty good for the quality and presentation of the food. Maybe this is just about ideal for what one should reasonably expect in this price range.
Anyways, the last time I went the server was very nice and the food was delivered to us less than 10 minutes after we ordered it- pretty damn efficient. They have a nice selection of beers with a Caribbean theme. Bottom line, you have a craving for something a little different and you like food with a lot of flavour, why not try the Reef.
The time we went, there were a dozen flies near the front entrance/patio area. Service ok. Ordered jerk chicken and roti. Would not go back, especially at what they charge for it. Riddim & Spice on Commerical Drive has better jerk (not the best, but way better) and go to Rehanah's Roti on St. John's St. in Port Moody for that specialty.
The place is great if you like relaxing to reggae music with a cold glass of ginger beer or whatever you drink. All the servers are friendly, they have a nice little patio, and I haven't tried the food, but I hear it's pretty good. Also fairly inexpensive and yes, the pina coladas are the best I've had in awhile, like a pineapple coconut smoothie except it gets you tipsy!
Mmmmm...This place is becoming one of my favorites these days.
My favorite here is actually the complimentary Johnny Bread.
They are like really good donuts. I wish they sell them at Tim Hortons!
I can't remember what I had last time, but today, I had Jamaican Jerk Chicken.
It was really delicious and spicy. It's not a boring ambiguous chicken. It's got a good kick to it.
We went here on Friday evening, and it was quite busy, but the service was fine. Maybe their service is not the most prompt sometimes, but this place is so busy, and I'm not in rush when I eat out anyways.
Ambiance is funky and noisy in a good way.
Love their selection of Reggae music.
Food: Reading the other posts it seems like it's not that authentic, but it sure is tasty. I've only had "reef" Caribbean food and I've always been happy with it. The tofu tacos, veggie curry and jerk tofu roti are among my favorite dishes (although I suspect the roti is just a tortilla). They also do THE BEST yam fries I've ever had.
Service: Really good. Servers are always friendly and attentive. Watch out for the commercial drive location though, they're not so great.
Value: $30-$35.00 for a dinner for two people goes down well in my books. Add drinks and it's usually forty bucks or less (with the tip).
Ambiance: kind of that cheesy beachy theme. But it's not obnoxious, well lit and clean. Music is quiet enough to have a conversation over too.
I've been here probably a dozen times and it's always been good. No complaints.