Soulful artworks, hanging plants, and pops of color lend irie vibes to this new Jamaican hot spot. (Courtesy of Kaya)

First Taste: Punch Bowls, Jerk Chicken + Irie Times at Jamaican Hot Spot Kaya

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The evolution of Mid-Market continues with another change-up: Say seeya later to Daniel Patterson's Alta CA (reopening soon in Yotel and still serving at Minnesota Street Project), and what's up to his Jamaican-inspired Kaya.

Now, if you're thinking that Patterson, the chef/owner behind California-centric Alta and the three-Michelin-starred tweezer-chic fine dining establishment Coi, may not be the guy to bring us authentic Caribbean eats, you'd probably be right. But no savant reaches the top of any field without knowing when to seek help from a more learned sage.

Kingston 11's Jamaican-born chef Nigel Jones makes his San Francisco debut.(Courtesy of Kaya)

For Kaya, Patterson tapped Jamaican-born chef Nigel Jones, whose Kingston 11 restaurant is well known by Oakland foodies who make it a regular stop for fall-off-the-bone oxtail stew (so good, it easily nabbed a spot on 7x7's Big Eat Oakland) and the irie vibes that are quintessential to Jamaica (go on a Friday night and you may find yourself at a dinner-slash-DJ-dance-party).

Put the two chefs together and the menu is, naturally, a fusion of modern Jamaican recipes prepared with high-quality Californian ingredients—think caramelized plantains, Mary's Organic jerk chicken and, of course, that oxtail stew. But no culinary escape to the islands would be complete without tropical drinks, and beverage director Aaron Paul pulls this off in the form of rum-centric cocktails with a focus on Caribbean liquors and spices. Lush plants, Caribbean artwork, and vintage movies complete the picture.

In the development of Kaya, Jones found himself reminiscing on his time spent entirely elsewhere, taking inspiration from the traditions of Asia where mealtime is an intimate communal experience. Here he hopes to celebrate food, yes, but to also be the local place where we can meet and catch up with our families and friends.

// 1420 Market St. (Civic Center), kayasf.com.

Plantains are required eating at any Jamaican meal and Kaya doesn't disappoint. These little caramelized nuggets are paired with sour cream and pureed black bean dip for a sweet and savory treat.

(Sarah Chorey)

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