Do the Jerk

Kingston 11 cooks Jamaican chicken the right way

Kingston 11's best dish has been a long time coming.

Nigel Jones and Adrian Henderson's new Oakland restaurant began as Sunday night dinner. Friend told friend, and soon the two were hosting a weekly potluck. "It became a forum for food and politics," Henderson says.

One guest, who runsĀ Guerrilla Cafe, offered to host a weekly Caribbean-Californian pop-up. Word spread, and after three years of solid business, the pop-up went perm.

Henderson runs the front of the house, his community-justice background channeled into potent charm. Jones, who grew up in Jamaica, makes a mean jerk chicken ($14).

Marinated for 48 hours in allspice, cloves, thyme, Scotch bonnet peppers and a few other seasonings, the chicken is roasted just until it's juicy and finished off with a few minutes in the smoker. Its flavor is both brassy and deep, and the chile burn hangs out for a while.

Don't turn to the rice and red beans served on the side for relief: Cooked with coconut milk and a visible amount of spice, they have their own peppery swagger.

The house-made ginger beer ($4), which has the power to clear sinuses, dissipates the heat, giving you time to catch your breath before diving back in.