Where: Ocean Blue
When: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon to 8 p.m. Sunday
Dish: Brown Stewed Chicken
The Setting: Ocean Blue in Chandler is a surprise of a Caribbean restaurant. Featuring Jamaican favorites like ackee and saltfish ($16.99) and classic jerk chicken ($11.59-$20.99), among other Caribbean dishes, this restaurant serves authentic island food in an East Valley strip mall. Ocean Blue's small dining room offers an island theme, with pictures of Bob Marley and tropical landscapes on the wall and Marley's music playing overhead. A football game blaring on the bar's TV was the only thing preventing us from mentally escaping to an island paradise. The straw-covered bar and wallpaper were a bit much, but the restaurant's design certainly makes the setting memorable.
The Dish: The brown stew in Ocean Blue's brown stewed chicken is a thin, savory sauce with a hint of Worcestershire sauce and a slightly sweet finish. The peppers and onions sautéed with the chicken are tender and mixed with surprise slices of ginger that lend a peppery crunch to the dish. While the chunks of chicken aren't as tender and we wanted, the flavor is on point and the oil in the sauce leaves a delightfully slippery film on your lips.
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Like nearly all of Ocean Blue's dishes, the brown stewed chicken is served with the choice of two sides. Our favorites are the steamed vegetables and fried ripe plantains. The vegetables are fabulous — shredded cabbage, carrots, peppers, and a few others that don't leave much of an impression, cooked just enough to be tender but not mushy and tossed in a buttery sauce. It's probably not the healthiest of vegetable dishes, but tasty nonetheless. The fried ripe plantains are out of this world — hot, sweet insides with a deep brown fried exterior.
The Best Part: Besides the absolutely delicious meal, the value at Ocean Blue is hard to beat. For $9.99, we got a sizable plate of food with two sides of our choice. While we wanted more at the end of our meal, it was because of the addicting salty-sweet-spicy combination of our food and the fiery hot sauce in a squeeze bottle on our table, not because the portions were small.
Also, those fried ripe plantains. The vegetables were really great, but we'd seriously consider getting plantains for both of our sides next time.
The One Thing We'd Change: The service was slow at Ocean Blue. We ordered quickly, but it took a while for the food to come out, and not all of it was piping hot. Then again, the food we got was worth the wait.