By Susan Baldani
If you want to take a trip to the islands but can’t get away right now, do the next best thing. Spice Isle in Warren is open and ready to tempt you with their Caribbean fusion cuisine. As your taste buds explode and tropical music plays in the background, close your eyes and imagine the sound of the waves and the feel of the ocean breeze.
Upon entering, the first thing you will see is a coconut tree. What fun! The soothing yellow walls and matching napkins, orange drop lights, and the orange and dark wood of the tables, bring all the colors of the tropics together. The style manages to combine the relaxed with the upscale. The chandeliers glisten off the copper recessed ceiling panels and the flickering candles on each table create a cozy ambiance, while the artwork in the dining room adds to the lavish feel. One of the paintings is of musicians playing the steel drums, and another captures the beauty of a beach in St. Croix. There is even art to be found in the restrooms. A bright colorful painting in the men’s room shows a vendor surrounded by the fruit of his island, and the painting in the ladies’ room is of women dancing in vibrant, flowing gowns.
The owner, Joyce Joseph, is very familiar with the Caribbean. She first visited the island of Carriacou, where her parents were born, when she was six. As a child, her parents introduced her to many of the dishes from home, often combining them with the foods and flavors of their new country when they moved to the United States. Through them she acquired a love of cooking these family favorites as well, and learned more by watching other cooks, such as Julia Child, demonstrating their skills.
Throughout the years, Joyce has traveled extensively to many of the islands in the Caribbean, including Trinidad, Antigua, Jamaica and Aruba. After obtaining an MBA and embarking on a long, successful career in the finance industry with many well-known companies, including KPMG and JP Morgan Chase, she decided the time was right to offer her favorite dishes in her home state of New Jersey, where she now lives. She is excited about the opportunity to expand Caribbean cuisine in the area and incorporate the foods of the various islands of the region. She states, “I wanted to take the best of the best of the various islands and get them into the menu.” Fusing these dishes with American favorites is a primary goal of hers, along with making it affordable so more people can discover the unique flavors the restaurant has to offer.
Many of the ingredients used in the dishes are found locally and emphasize what’s in season, so everything is fresh and full of flavor. There is something for everyone on the menu, starting with the Calypso Coconut Shrimp and Codfish Fritters. Entrees include Jerk Chicken, Tropical Salmon, and Curry Shrimp. Curry Goat, Pork Chops and their Spice Isle Ribeye will satisfy any meat lover, and vegetarians will appreciate their Rasta Pasta and other vegetable choices. If you have a hard time deciding what to have, share a Chef’s Platter with your dining companion. Of course, you have to include some of their delicious sides, such as Garlic Spinach, Yellow Plantains and Jamaican Festival Bread, and dessert with choices like Caribbean Black Cake, Gourmet Tropical Sorbet and Chocolate Cheesecake. To complement your meal, order a bottle of wine and sit back and relax. The wines are from Alba Vineyard in Warren County, NJ and are chosen specifically for Spice Isle. Or if you prefer, bring your favorite bottle with you.
Spice Isle is located at 41 Mountain Boulevard in Warren, NJ. They are open for lunch Tuesday through Friday, and for dinner from Tuesday through Sunday (they are closed on Mondays.) For reservations and more information, please call 908-834-8864 or go to spiceislenj.com.