For Chef Olrie Roberts, the best ingredient you can put into any dish, is passion.
“If you’re passionate about something, that will drive you. One of my mantra is obsession equals greatness. And so I’m obsessed with being great at what I do. I study and learn different cuisines, learn different techniques. And we’re proud of that.”
And you can get a taste of all of that passion when you visit Zaz. Located in Hyde Park, Zaz Restaurant is the dream turned reality for chef/owner Olrie Roberts, who named the place after his biggest accomplishments, his children.
“The name says Z-A-Z derives from my two older kids Zaria and Zalian.” And when it came to the cuisine, Olrie uses the flavors of his native roots. I fell in love with cooking at a very young age. I’m from the Caribbean, from Grenada. And so growing up in that households, we had to know how to cook our own meal. And so became a norm to be able to do my thing in the kitchen.”
And when he’s doing that thing in the kitchen, he’s doing it with the freshest ingredients he can find.
“We’re not fast food, we are fresh food. We make everything from scratch. So you’ll get a fill of fresh ingredients, but also unique ingredients. The Asian Caribbean fusion is pretty unique for what we do. So we incorporate everything we grew up with we incorporate it all in the flavors, and it’s pretty unique.”
When you think of the flavors of the Caribbean, it’s hard to not think of Jerk.
“Jerk is a popular Jamaican seasoning. A lot of spice, cloves and Scotch bonnet peppers that’s grinded down and it’s very potent, strong flavor. And so we incorporate a lot of that flavor into our mix. So right here we have the jerk chicken, the famous jerk chicken. And the key the key to the jerk is a secret I’ll give you a secret right now we have the jerk season underneath the skin. We probably will sit in here for at least minimum four hours. And so this is how it goes. I like to be authentic with my flavors. The way I will cook it in my country back home is all I want to make it up here so we do every year round…It could be rain, it could be snow. Whatever weather it is, we’re going to be outside jerkin.”
And that jerk finds its way into appetizers like these Salmon Hush Puppies. And handhelds like Zaz’s Jerk Burger.
“We use the same traditional jerk season…season that we make in house we incorporated with some fine ground beef and then…we add a mango pineapple sauce with the cheese melted all over it. It’s it’s to die for. “
Of course, Zaz specializes in Jerk Chicken which can be found served over a waffle or on its own, with that spicy jerk seasoning- and the added flavor of wood smoke.
“Wood smoke is a key for us we do and I told myself years ago that I’m not going to Jerk chicken in the oven is going to be done out on the grill smoked for hours and so you’re going to get a taste of the all the different flavors from the both the seasoning but also the wood smoky flavor.”
Other Zaz favorites include sweet, succulent coconut shrimp and zippy buffalo cauliflower.
“You bite into the cauliflower, the shell is kind of crispy or the inside is mostly moist and soft, and it’s super flavorful. One of my favorite items you gotta have that one.”
Both vegans and meat-eaters alike- will marvel at the flavor-packed vegan bagel. This filling treat features a smoked portobello mushroom topped with guacamole, crispy leeks, tomatoes, microgreens and maple banana butter, stacked on an everything bagel.
“You bite into that bagel, you wouldn’t think it’s mushroom, you get a nice big thick portabello mushroom that’s smoked so you the flavor alone will make you think it’s it’s meat.” Another dish that’s downright delicious is the Thai Basil Rice with Jackfruit.
“It’s like no other. You get a crispy jackfruit with a sweet chili sauce. And the Thai Basil rice and so that’s another hit for us.”
Seafood fanatics will want to check out the ultra fresh teriyaki salmon served alongside Haitian style black rice and a Lobster Mac and Cheese with a Caribbean influence.
“We do the bechemel sauce in house. We use the nutmeg from Grenada to do to make the Bechel sauce. We do the different cheese blends and of course we had to have the Maine lobster in there. It is it is to die for it is cheesy. You bite into it. You see the cheese following you to your mouth and it’s like no other.”
There really is no other experience quite like this in all of Boston and beyond. Which is why you need to try, Zaz.
“This is there’s no other Zaz when you walk into the door, the smell is going to hit but not just that the flavor. The food that we make is unique, it’s authentic. The menu is different. We spend a lot of time with recipes and different things to make it an experience for you. And so there’s only one Zaz.”