Dining Review: Variety spice of DKDC life

New menu gives restaurant creative license

Photos by Justin Shaw/Special to The Commercial Appeal
The sauce for the Jerk Lamb Chops at Bar DKDC comes from a recipe from Jamaica, says owner Karen Carrier.

Photos by Justin Shaw/Special to The Commercial Appeal The sauce for the Jerk Lamb Chops at Bar DKDC comes from a recipe from Jamaica, says owner Karen Carrier.

When we asked our server at Bar DKDC what “DKDC” stands for, she replied “Don’t Know, Don’t Care.” That may be the name, but it’s certainly not the philosophy of the servers and cooks at this little bar in the Cooper-Young area.

Formerly the sushi bar Do, Bar DKDC stands next door to (and shares a patio with) the Beauty Shop. Both are owned by Karen Carrier, who was the original creative force behind Automatic Slim’s, and now also owns the Mollie Fontaine Lounge.

The Guava Glazed Pork Chop is served with house-made pickles and mango sauce.

The Guava Glazed Pork Chop is served with house-made pickles and mango sauce.

Island Jerk Fish Club features bacon, mango pepper-pot sauce, potato chips, slaw and lime.

Island Jerk Fish Club features bacon, mango pepper-pot sauce, potato chips, slaw and lime.

Sugar Cane Shrimp is another spicy dish at DKDC with its mango pepper-pot sauce.

Sugar Cane Shrimp is another spicy dish at DKDC with its mango pepper-pot sauce.

Bar DKDC occupies the space next to the Beauty Shop in Cooper-Young that formerly housed Do sushi bar.

Bar DKDC occupies the space next to the Beauty Shop in Cooper-Young that formerly housed Do sushi bar.

The décor is what we’ve all come to expect from Carrier’s establishments. For this one, we need a single vocabulary word that combines the meanings of “hip,” “funky,” “fun” and “eclectic.” With mismatched seating around small tables, an alligator over the bar made of beer bottle caps, and a variety of primitive masks on the wall, it all comes together.

More striking is the banquette seating along one wall with vividly colored tapestry covers — on the backs, not on the seats where something might be spilled.

When she made the transition from Do, she wanted to be able to change the menu frequently. Thus the name, which lets her feature whatever cuisine style she fancies at the time.

The theme of the restaurant is street food, and the menu currently is Jamaican/Caribbean. In the past, it has featured Spain and Mexico. In a few weeks, the cuisine will be French and New Orleans Creole. The menu this summer will focus on Israel and the Middle East. Still later, Asia will be the inspiration.

We first visited early on a weeknight, so the room wasn’t crowded. We looked at the drink menu. Although I’m not much of a hard-liquor drinker, there were so many amusing-sounding cocktails that I had to try one. I chose the Blackberry Julep. Served in a small Mason jar as all drinks are, blackberries had been muddled in the bottom, with Jim Beam bourbon, mint and sugar rum. A good stir got the blackberries all mixed into the drink. It was delicious. On another occasion, I chose a Get On The Good Foot, with gin, St. Germain liqueur, lime zest and juice and a splash of tonic. Another hit.

One of our party was a beer drinker. The beer list pretty much covered the bases. The beer on draft included a lager, a pale ale, a summer ale and Pabst Blue Ribbon. In bottles were several ales, several lagers and a couple of stouts. There was also a ginger cider by the bottle.

Another at the table ordered a citron vodka and tonic. Although the bartender didn’t have the citron vodka, he obligingly muddled lemon slices in the glass to add flavor. There’s also a list of rums, available in standard rum drinks and featured in several specialty cocktails on the list.

The wine list is short, only a dozen or so, but there is something for everyone, including a couple of sparkling wines by the glass, and even a real French Gris de Gris rosé.

The menu isn’t long, and it comprises only small plates. In two visits, we tried all but one of the first-course choices. The Meat Patties and Callaloo Patties are what we might call empanadas or, in the South, turnovers. A circle of coco flour pastry encloses a filling of beef with a Jamaican curry seasoning, served with a papaya lime dipping sauce. The callaloo filling was a mixture of kale and spinach with shallots, and it came with a dish of straight Pickapeppa, a dark and delicious Jamaican bottled sauce.

On our first visit, we shared the Onion Curls, crispy little shreds of onion, lightly battered and deep fried, with a Pickapeppa aioli. We loved them. On our second visit, the onions were more thickly cut, and not at all crispy with the batter falling off in clumps. We left those onions on the plate.

One of our favorite appetizer dishes was the Stamp & Go Corn Fritters. Corn kernels were mixed into a corn meal batter with green onion and chili seasoning, served with a very tasty Blueberry Mint Jalapeño Chutney. I could have just eaten that sauce with a spoon. Or over ice cream.

There are three sandwiches listed: a burger, a fried egg sandwich and a fish club. The Fried Egg Sandwich was a standout. On toasted challah bread, it was topped with smoky thick-cut bacon, smashed fried plantains, tomatoes and greens. It was a thick sandwich with bits of toppings falling out onto the plate, but, hey, that’s why they give you a fork, right?

The Island Jerk Fish Club was equally difficult to eat neatly. A tilapia filet had been dusted with jerk seasoning and blackened, and was topped with the same bacon, a lime-seasoned slaw and potato chips. Yep, the chips were right on the sandwich, not on the side. It was all drizzled with a zesty mango sauce.

For meat lovers, the menu offers several options. But remember, all are small plates. My favorite from that part of the menu was the Guava Glazed Pork Chop, served with house-made pickles and mango sauce. The Peppered Steak, grilled rib-eye with sautéed chayote (a squash-like vegetable) and peppered brown butter, was served medium-rare as ordered. The Island Chicken Fricassee with coconut milk-ginger broth contained chunks of various root vegetables. It was served in a crock that made getting at the chicken a little hard. I mentioned that to my companions, and within moments our server was there with a plate.

There are Jerk Chicken and Jerk Lamb Chops. The jerk sauce is made by Carrier, who got the recipe years ago from a secret source in Jamaica. We were warned by the server that the jerk seasoning is quite spicy. She was right.

In fact, we loved most everything we ordered (except the soggy onion curls on the second visit). But the problem for some might be that the current menu is not for the weak of tongue or tummy. Almost everything is spicy to some degree.

The dessert list is short. There is coconut cream pie on the menu, but they had none on our first visit. No matter. We got the other two dishes, Fried Island Banana and Pineapple Carpaccio. Both were served in a tasty brown sugar syrup and accompanied by really good coconut ice cream.

Bar DKDC features lie music several evenings a month, usually starting around 10:30. You can find the schedule on the website, bardkdc.com.

Pricing of the small plates is very reasonable. The specialty cocktail pricing is a bit on the high side, but the wine and beer lists are very fairly priced.

Bar DKDC

Food:

Service:

Atmosphere:

Address: 964 S. Cooper

Phone: 901-272-0830

Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. (“or until all our guests are gone”)

Alcohol: Wine, beer and full bar

Reviewer’s choice: Stamp & Go Corn Fritters ($4), Sugar Cane Shrimp ($7), Callaloo Patties ($5), Island Jerk Fish Club Sandwich ($7), Guava Glazed Breakfast Pork Chop ($7), Pineapple Carpaccio ($5).

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