When it gets so cold that leaving your room is as appealing as taking an Ec 10 hourly, Rhythm and Spice is the perfect enticement to brave the weather. Head to this Central Square hot spot when you are in the mood for a slice of the Caribbean. It’s just a mere four blocks from the T-stop to 315 Mass. Ave.; who know that a mini-vacation could be 10 minutes away?
In order to banish the lingering Cambridge chill and to help pass the 30-minute wait for a table, we immediately hit up the bar for some exotic drinks. The friendly bartender happily directed us to the house specialties from the extensive drink menu, which heavily featured rum. We opted for a pale purple blended concoction coined “Jamaican Voodoo” and a less-flashy rum punch. Both were satisfyingly sweet.
Inside this smallish restaurant, the canary yellow walls with bright green and red accents spoke cheerily, while foreign flags and tapestries hung from every surface and soft reggae music soothe. With a few of their vibrant drinks from the heavy-handed bartender, Rhythm and Spice seemed to virtually breathe an island spirit.
We squeezed into our chairs, taking care not to knock the Red Stripes off our neighbors’ table. The seating was intimate but lively; we shared several conversations with our fellow diners. The clientele was diverse, as were the employees.
It took awhile for the waiter to come and take our order. Life seemed to move on island time in this restaurant. But once we got his attention, the waiter was amicable and prompt.
Being self-sacrificing reporters, we endeavored to try almost every item on the menu. The food was reasonably priced with appetizers around $5 and entrees around $11. The options mainly included jerk and curry flavors true to the spices of the Caribbean. Although the menu consisted mainly of meat dishes, they were a few salads and some vegetarian dishes. After considering the more unusual fare such as ox tails and goat meat, we decided to sample some of the more mundane food.
We started our meal with a forgettable eggplant dip with baked plantain chips. Call us meat lovers, but this vegetarian appetizer lacked sass. The conch fritters and jerk chicken wings were a great improvement. Surprisingly free of grease, the fritters were light and authentic, while the wings were our favorite dish of the night. Their ranch dipping sauce was the perfect accompaniment to the bite of the jerk and created playful, contradictory flavors.
After sharing three appetizers, we were essentially full, but we didn’t let our waning appetites prevent us from carrying out our reporting duties. When our main courses arrived, we eagerly delved into the heaping portions of meat, rice, beans and fried plantains. The Chicken Madras, a curry dish, was moist and subtly flavored. The Jerk Pork, tender and spicy, pulled easily off the bone. The side dishes were just as impressive. The rice, beans and fried plantains were cooked expertly and gave the meal a home-cooked feel.
Because of the large portions and limited choices, we skipped dessert and ordered another round of drinks instead. The sweet and succulent Rasta Colada was the perfect sugary substitute. Frankly, The Mango Peach Martini, on the other hand, was nearly lethal. If you don’t you need a chaser, this drink is for you.
We stumbled out of the restaurant, tipsy and full. The cold wind shocked us and we vowed to return to this tropical paradise as soon as possible.