“It’s not Sanjaya, it’s called Sarjai’s” I kept telling her all week. “You are thinking of American Idol”. It didn’t matter as she wouldn’t budge. Brains are on vacation too. By the 4th day I said good morning at 8 pm, to a cactus, without anything to drink of significance. And by the 6th I was calling it Sanjaya too. We needed to be on the same page to survive this brain freeze. We talked about Sarjai’s often partly because I wanted to break our #1 rule. But she wouldn’t go for it. First trip to foodie powerhouse Anguilla and you want to eat at the same place twice? That stands against everything our ancestors stand for. Our ancestors been to Anguilla?
On our first dinner in Anguilla I was like a 9 year old girl at a Justin Bieber concert. Forget the appetizers… the Caesars, the Capreses, the Crispy “anything but the F word, fri@#d” Calamari are just the warm-up acts that no one cares about. Bring me the Bieberlicious! 4 Mains, nothing less! “Oh thats just Meshugenah. My Xanax from the flight hasnt even fully kicked in yet”. 3 Mains! The fourth was the infamous Steak au Poivre, the most delicious thing on this vacation I haven’t had. After all, it comes with something called Aunty Joan’s Home-made Curried Fries. And if there’s one thing I learned during my travels is that anything with the word Aunty in it is a must get. Think about it. Have you ever had something that made you say, “this is great, but that aunty side suggests this Aunty needs a stint or two at Le Cordon Blue. Get rid of her”. Most likely never.
My first wife and travel companion believes there was a Welcome to Anguilla sign at the ferry entrance, and she has pictures to prove it. My eyes meanwhile were fixated on an Anguillan goat. That was my Welcome to Anguilla sign. That same night, the stewed goat at Sarjai’s was spot on. Tender, succulent, fatty in all the right places, like slow dancing with your mother in law.
The perfectly flaky creole snapper could have come just a perfectly flaky creole snapper with some rice and peas as in so many places like this, but not here. It arrives with delicious curried cabbage (buried under that fish – oh what fun) and coconut sweet potato dumplings that chef Darren’s grandma makes. Those dumplings grew on us in a hurry, and next thing you know we can’t get enough of them. A brilliant dish that set the bar nicely for many more snappers to come
And our first foray into the Anguillan Crayfish was quite a success. Crayfish in Anguilla is essentially spotted spiny lobster and has no resemblance to the sea roaches of New Orleans. At Sarjai’s they come plentiful, sweet and buttery even without the help of the butter on the side. Not overcooked at all unlike some of the Crayfish we enjoyed the rest of the week.
I enjoyed the warm coconut pie, especially since the wife wouldnt touch the stuff. When she tries anything with bits of coconut in it, her face turns into Robert de Niro and she starts spitting profusely. She did enjoy her passion fruit cheesecake.
Sarjai’s, named after chef Darren Connor’s daughter, delivered the kind of vacation debut I can only wet dream about. Chef Connor, like a true Anguillan idol, represents Anguilla from time to time in cooking competitions. Fresh from his trip to NY and Omaha where he learned more about the art of beef, shows the kind of passion and skill you dont normally see in places like this. Places without a sommelier or dedicated stool for your man’s purse. Its the kind of place you are free to run around like a two year old, and talk to the chef like an old friend. I need more friends like this. Ok, one will do for now.