With the exception of the greasy Yaam beach snack bar, the Caribbean is conspicuously absent from Berlin’s culinary multiverse. Upon hearing the word ‘Jamaican’ a picture of Bob Marley sucking on a spliff enters most Berliners’ minds, so it’s altogether refreshing to enter Rosa Caleta (top photo, right), a Jamaican restaurant that has swapped the usual Rastafarian folklore for a cosmopolitan approach with delicious homemade cookery and top-notch service.
Recognisable Caribbean standards (‘jerk’ this and ‘jerk’ that) appear in the menu and it’s not a bad idea to warm up your taste buds with the Jerk Plate (€6), but most dishes have a few European touches thrown in. The gargantuan oven-roast pork filet might be flavoured with jerk spice and served with a delightful mango-ginger lentil salad, but its delicious tartly sweet plum sauce makes it more than a little reminiscent of grandmère’s French Christmas meal; it’s absolutely satisfying! We were given a bottle of rich mango pineapple sauce to spike our plates with additional tropical flavour. The Fiery Guava Jerk Chicken (a bit spicier than the jerk appetizer) served with rice and peas, a dumpling and German-style red cabbage, was also an interesting take on Euro-Jamaican fusion cooking. Speaking of fusion, one of the highlights was actually the home-baked bread: Jamaican corn bread and an Irish soda bread containing lavender and black pepper. Vegetarians don’t have to shy away: The menu always boasts a couple of meatless choices such as the Jamaican-style veggie-tofu stew with pumpkin, red pepper, zucchini and chick peas in coconut milk.
Although the portions are ample, save room for dessert, as they offer a daily selection of delicious homemade cakes (like chocolate peanut or corn-sweet potato). Rosa Caleta is the brainchild of Jamaican expats Dirk, formerly a Manhattan fashion store manager, and chef Troy, who speaks passionately of the St. Andrews thyme he imports from Jamaica. Both have put their hearts into the venture, expressed through the cooking and the place’s warm, welcoming atmosphere.