Humble cuts of meat contain the boldest flavors. Short ribs stand as the sweet, charred cornerstone of Korean BBQ. Ham hocks imbue Southern collard greens with smoky soul. And turkey necks exponentialize the flavor of any long-simmering pot of beans. But none hold a candle to the hallowed Jamaican delicacy—oxtail, the specialty of Reggae Pot in Los Gatos.
The simple, strip mall stop selects only free-range, grass-fed oxen that haven’t been chubbed up by GMOs or steroidal additives. The Oxtail plate ($15.95) is with a chewy cabbage, two scoops of coconut-infused red beans and rice and caramelized plantains, an island staple that lands somewhere between a banana and a potato.
The star of the show arrives in a canary yellow chariot—a mini pot containing creamy butter beans and fat-laden meat sitting in peppery, garlicky stew juices. The tender, long-cooked morsels fall from the bone with the lightest touch of a fork and the sumptuous, tongue-squeezing flavor liquefies as soon as you close your mouth.
Oxtail reminds me of home in one of my previous lives. It’s like a collaboration album by all my favorite savory flavors. It’s so good I forgot it spent years covering the butt of a beast of burden. I sopped the pot clean with a couple scoops of red beans and rice, then reclined and purred hyperbolic compliments.
My vegetarian dining partner went with the Calaloo and Tofu ($15.95), which arrived with flavorful, Jamaican collard greens balanced against crispy-skinned tofu pillows. We also split a tiny skillet of cayenne-topped, broiler-finished Mac & Cheese ($5.75) that took some deft utensil work to extricate bites from their extra-gooey community.
As we finished our meal, our server asked if we wanted one or two orders of desert—not ordering wasn’t an option. Stuffed, we opted to split the warm, cardamom-spiced slice of baked sweet potato pudding ($4.75), served a la mode with rum raisin ice cream.
The menu has titles written in the Jamaican vernacular. So, from the “Full Mi Belly” (entree) section customers can sample Jerk Salmon ($16.75), Curried Goat ($13.95) and Ackee and Saltfish ($18.75)—the latter is the national dish of Jamaica, built from the seeds of the rare ackee fruit, and it must be of perfect ripeness; otherwise, it’s poisonous. When properly prepared, the sauteed seeds cradle the briney flavor of saltfish with a taste that is somewhere between nuts, cheese and eggs.
This spot checks all boxes of authenticity, from the staff’s accents and the wall-sized portrait of the homeland to the soft plonks and chirps of reggae in the background. Their slogan says it best, they serve “Di Real Tase A Jamaica.”
15495 Los Gatos Blvd., Los Gatos.