A taste of the Caribbean in snow
February 22, 2008
Parkite Malcolm Waters said he wanted to create a restaurant that prepared his favorite foods Cajun, Caribbean and American.
Formerly "Island Spices" at The Canyons, Waters recently bought the old Buona Vida restaurant at the bottom of Main Street on Heber Avenue, gutted it and created "an escape" for locals and visitors to get away from the cold winter storms and enjoy an atmosphere of Caribbean flair and light sounds of live calypso and reggae music. It’s called Irie Restaurant, serving Caribbean, Cajun, American food and sushi.
Waters, originally from Florida, said he has always been exposed to Caribbean and Cajun foods in the South, which ignited his passion and love for the food. He met his wife, Nanda Waters, originally from the Caribbean, while she was studying to become a journalist in Canada. Malcolm was transferred to Utah to work for AOL and Nanda followed. Malcolm said he planned to live in Utah for only a year, but ended up staying 13. He said, while living out West, he has missed Caribbean and Cajun foods, which he says are not easy to find in Utah. That’s why he and Nanda decided to open their own restaurant, to fulfill their own needs and the community’s need for tasty Caribbean and southern cuisine.
"It was kind of selfish," Malcolm laughs about his business venture. "We fulfilled a niche in the community and had everything we wanted, too."
Malcolm and Nanda originally opened "Island Spices" at The Canyons. They said the restaurant was well received there, but, when a spot opened on Main Street, they decided it would be a better location for attracting more locals and visitors. They bought Buona Vida and went to work, creating a Caribbean-themed restaurant, sushi bar and live jazz establishment.
Malcolm says his wife, Nanda, is the mastermind behind the food served at Irie. As executive chef of the restaurant, Malcolm said Nanda has years of experience working with Cajun spices and preparing Caribbean food in her family’s kitchen.
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"She’s been cooking for 10 years," he said. "She’s from the islands and [uses] family recipes from the Caribbean."
Another part-owner of the restaurant, Jim Ring, said Irie provides a relaxing atmosphere for patrons who want to escape the snow and enjoy a pleasant conversation over good food, with the sounds of soft, live jazz playing in the background.
"It’s a place for people to escape from their surroundings," Ring said. "We see things from the customer’s point-of-view."
Ring said some of his favorite dishes on the menu include the authentic Curry Roti, using a handmade flatbread made in Trinidad. Roti is a bread wrap filled with island curry.
"It’s very tasty," Ring said.
Other items on the menu Malcolm and Ring recommend are the sushi rolls.
The sushi chef, Horiki Ohata, or "Hero," the staff calls him, is "a certified master sushi chef."
"We have a phenomenal sushi chef," Malcolm said of Ohata. "Talk about creativity! He’s really artistic. The presentation is phenomenal."
Irie Restaurant serves sushi from 11 a.m. to closing. Malcolm said the fish is ordered fresh, not frozen.
"Every couple of days, we get a shipment of fish from Japan," Malcolm said. "[Diners] can taste the freshness."
Other items on the menu Malcolm enjoys are the authentic New Orleans Style Gumbo and Jambalaya.
Malcolm said the Gumbo has everything except the blue crabs because blue crabs are native to New Orleans. But, he said, Irie’s Gumbo is just as good.
"It’s authentic, we’re doing it as if we’re in New Orleans," Malcolm said.
Malcolm and Ring also talked about the live jazz, calypso and reggae music the restaurant offers every weekend. On Saturday, the renowned local jazz saxophone player, Joe McQueen, will play. Malcolm said it is an amazing experience no one should miss.
"He is 85 years old, but you would never know it," Malcolm said. "He plays the sax and sings. He is a jazz legend. He’s played with Sammy Davis [and] with them all."
The restaurant also hosted John Kelly on Friday night and has several other reggae, calypso bands and solo musicians lined up to play during the next few months.
Malcolm said "Irie" means "everything’s going to be OK" in Patwa, the Jamaican language. He said Nanda came up with the name for the new establishment on Main Street.
Irie is located at 628 Park Avenue at the bottom of Main Street, across the street from the Kimball Art Center. For more information, visit http://www.iriepc.com or call 615-9533.