A passion for flavour

Ortanique is the newest restaurant to open up at the Crescent at Camana Bay, bringing with it an exciting mix of Caribbean flavours and American flair, with an Asian touch.

Owner Delius Shirley is a restauranteur of note, having helped run his mother, Norma’s, restaurant back home in Jamaica.

“My mother was known as the Julia Child of Jamaica,” he confirms, and says he learned a tremendous amount in her kitchen.

Moving to the States, Delius established Norma’s on the Beach on Miami Beach in 1994, eventually changing its name to Ortanique. New restaurants sprang up in Coral Gables and all across the States bearing the same stamp of unique Caribbean influences, only to be savvily sold off just before the economic meltdown of 2008/9.

Along the way Darius met Cindy Hutson, in his words “a really great chef” who helped him open his first property in Miami.

“Cindy thought she would just be helping us out but she became our head chef. She really found her niche with this type of cuisine, having been married to a Jamaican,” he confirms, and thus Cindy was a cornerstone in the success of the restaurants.

In 2008 Dart approached the restaurant to see if they would be interested in setting up at Camana Bay, bringing the exact same concept to the Cayman Islands.

Darius brought Cindy down to become the restaurant’s owner/executive chef while Sara Mair, a Top Chef top five winner is now established as the restaurant’s Chef de Cuisine.

At the time of writing this cool, airy, fresh and fruity restaurant had only been open in the evenings for a few weeks but already the owners had been turning people away, while lunches had only begun to be served that week and was already looking to become a popular lunchtime venue.

An ortanique is actually a hybrid Jamaican orange (think “or” for orange, “tan” for tangerine, and “ique” for unique) and the décor and cuisine of the restaurant reflect that citrus vibe, with orange splashed about throughout the colour scheme and large paintings of the most vibrant fruits and veg imaginable adorning the walls.

Our lunch menu reflected the eclectic mix of the culinary influences in the kitchen – from truffled short ribs sliders (CI$17) to jerked chicken penne pasta (CI$14); from single West Indian Cornish game hen (CI$16) to my choice, a deliciously fruity and citrussy Norma’s Terrace Salad (CI$12), an almost too beautiful to devour concoction of Belgium endive, arugula, local mango, papaya, avocado, orange, grapefruit, candied pecans (adding fabulous texture as well as flavour) and cucumber curls in a mint passion fruit dressing, topped off with Feta cheese. 

Darius says that the restaurant has a whole slew of exciting events in store for it clientele, including Sunday brunch, tapas served in the afternoons and early evenings, full moon parties with a roasted pig cooked out on the Crescent’s own little island, Temptation Thursdays where a bottle of wine will have a third off and wine tastings of over 20 wines.

Watch this space; this is one exciting restaurant that will keep the tastebuds whetted for some time to come.