You can be somewhat assured of what you'll find at a Jamaican restaurant: Jerk chicken and oxtail. Maybe escovitched fish and flaky beef patties.
It would be hard for a grab-and-go spot to vary from that template — and yet it leaves room for a personal signature. Kirk Pusey, who grew up learning to cook in Kingston, Jamaica, spent much of his adult life developing his own style. "I always wanted to open a Jamaican restaurant, so I saved money and decided to open this venture."
That's Nyam Sum in Central Islip, which Pusey and his wife, Charmaine, opened this spring. The inside is painted bright yellow and kelly green, and there is a counter with a hot bar, a few tables, and floor-to-ceiling windows. The place is filled with aromas of cinnamon, garlic and pimento. There is oxtail, which braises for hours, and jerk chicken, plus sour sop and moringa tea. All of it, from décor to menu, springs from a long-held vision.
Although he always imagined having his own place, a different chapter awaited. After Pusey came with his family to the United States in 1998, he met a U.S Marine recruiter in a shopping mall and decided to enlist. "I thought, this was it. I like challenges, so I thought, 'let me go in, and join."
Pusey served in the Marines for 10 years, with deployments in Afghanistan and elsewhere. After he left the military, he socked away money for over a decade.
The couple adopted the Nyam Sum restaurant name from the Patois term that loosely translates as "eat some."
A plate of aromatic jerk chicken and sides costs $10.50, as does a brighter, more piquant sweet-and-spicy chicken, which can come with steamed cabbage, caramelized plantains and rice and peas. Other dishes: Rasta pasta ($9.75), curried shrimp and curried goat ($14 to $15), beef and chicken patties ($2.80 each), and slow-cooked cow foot and beans ($10.75). Ting, ginger beer and carrot juice, as well as sorrel, moringa and sour sop teas are all found on the beverage front.
While Pusey helps oversee the food, he is also sometimes found out front, greeting visitors with a smile. He has a lot to give thanks for, he said, especially after serving in war zones. "I'm grateful to be alive and grateful for this country," he said. "It has given me everything."
Nyam Sum is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner at 70 W. Suffolk Ave., Central Islip. 631-439-1639.