His Caribbean Majesty

Dinners also come with a gently seasoned mixture of carrots, cauliflower, greens, and onions, overcooked to mush. (For vegans who can live with soggy veggies, the menu offers dinners of this mixture with a Jamaican fruit called "ackee," or with tofu, or cooked as a curry, or, occasionally, as roti.) In addition, with dinner you get "rice and peas," with kidney beans playing the peas (as they do back home). King's isn't the best version of the dish I've ever had (I like a bit more allspice), but it's not bad. As a side (and because there are no desserts) we ordered fried plantains ($2.50), which were the best version -- sweet-starchy ripe plantains sliced lengthwise and gently sauteed until melting and lightly caramelized. For a beverage, we had ginger "beer" ($2), actually a fierce house-made ginger ale, nonalcoholic but intensely infused with ginger root, which is said to be good for you. Besides the food, the fact that the label bore Prince Neville's name and logo made me suspect that King might indeed be the Prince's latest avatar. (The next meal we had the "light" ginger beer, which proved less exigent and more pleasurable.)

The second dinner, we started with a pair of patties ($2 each) -- thin turnovers with crisp baked-dough wrappers surrounding savory fillings. The minced chicken patty was pleasant, though the curry flavoring had an odd, brassy undertone. But the beef just blew it away, with a hand-chopped texture and a seasoning complex enough to afford a full and equal collaboration between the spices and the Scotch bonnets. Incidentally, the menu promises "No Pork," and that all meats are organic, kosher, and Halah. (Usually spelled "Hallal," the Islamic butchering code is similar to the Jewish restrictions. In fact, given the lack of dairy products in the cuisine -- the milk the kid is stewed in comes from a coconut, not a nanny goat -- odds are, food from King's is safe from tref.)

Wanting to try a different fish, we had red snapper (it's actually Pacific rockfish; snapper doesn't swim this far north), which the cook felt like covering with a smooth but incendiary red sauce ($9.95). The fish was tasty but the sauce overwhelmed it; the previous meal's salmon had proven a better choice given the powerful seasonings His Majesty favors. We also had jerked chicken ($8.95). Jerk is a multispiced, peppery marinade in which allspice (which grows in Jamaica) and Scotch bonnets play defining roles. On the island, the jerked meat is barbecued over the wood of the "pimiento" (allspice) tree, but up here, pimiento wood isn't available, and even if it were, the absence of grilled items from the menu suggests that the King has no wood-fired grill. Still, the chicken had been marinated long enough that the jerk permeated it wholly, leaving it spicy right down to the bone; then it was baked (just slightly dry) and finally daubed with a savory-spicy brown sauce.

This time, the "delivery fellow" was off for the night. The same mellow voice said that if we could wait, he himself would deliver the food after closing. Sure, I could wait, I assured him. He showed up promptly at 10:40 p.m. He was wearing a black leather cap, not the top hat in the picture of Prince Neville on the ginger beer bottles. Still, I scrutinized him carefully. Now, I hope I'm not giving away a terrible secret that will cause King's to vanish away like its predecessor, because I still don't know the reason behind all those evanescings.

"You really are Neville, aren't you?" I asked.
"Yes, I am," he confessed.
"Hey, I'm glad you're back.

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