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Devil's Reef

Eldritch lore, flickering lanterns and rum -- lots and lots of rum

A forkful from the Rum Fire Jerk Chicken Rice Bowl is a flavor explosion. Photo credit: Dutch Randall

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ANNOUNCER: Dutch and Jackie step straight into a dark and mysterious hangout this week, right in downtown Tacoma's Opera Alley. The Devil's Reef is Caribbean themed in both atmosphere and spice, and full of enough rum concoctions for everyone. Though nautical in focus, it has a dark side to it as well.

JACKIE: Uh, woah. Owners Jason Alexander and Robyn Murphy really know how to transform a space. What was once cozy and cool B Sharp Coffeehouse is now moody, mysterious and dangerously sexy. Their sister space, Tacoma Cabana, boasts a light and whimsical take on the tiki culture, while Devil's Reef feels almost ominous. Dark wood, high-hung chandeliers and flickering lanterns, a wrecked pirate ship in deep waters.

DUTCH: Clearly, drinks are driving the menu here as I saw fancy flowery concoctions on nearly every table. When I asked what was popular, the waiter responded simply: "Rum." Yep, it's that simple, lots and lots of rum drinks. I settled on the Angler's Fang, which consists of lime, orange and passion juice combined with grenadine and "oceans of rum". Oceans of rum was not an exaggeration; there was a lot of alcohol mixed in with the fruity flavors of the tropics.

JACKIE: Rum, rum and more rum. I asked for the bartender's special and what was placed in front of me was delectable to say the least. Gin, rum and allspice laid the foundation for a smooth, refreshing sipper. I was informed this fella was to be featured on the menu soon and went by the moniker The Arcane Investigator. Alexander crafts each libation with an eye for detail and pure passion for rum. If you seek bourbon, gin or vodka-based craft cocktails, move along. There won't be any of these here.

DUTCH: There is a limited selection of small bites, but each is designed to pair with sweet and rum beverages. The Black Lava Tots are just such a dish with crispy on the outside, tender on the inside tater tots that are seasoned with black lava salt and then accompanied by a side of spicy sriracha ketchup.

JACKIE: Mmmmmmm ... tots. I spied the Black Sails Rice Bowl and had to have it. Essentially a deconstructed musubi, this dish featured Portuguese sausage and Spam and rice prepared just right. They then sprinkle the dish with green onions and furikake and serve it up alongside wakame seaweed crisps and the perfect amount of teriyaki and wasabi sauce. Each bite was a delight. Bonus, their stoneware is exquisite and sticks with the establishment's theme. Bonus points for more attention to detail.

DUTCH: Another dish that fits the theme here is the Rum Fire Jerk Chicken Rice Bowl. As advertised, the drunken jerk chicken was plentiful, flavorful and when partnered with the spicy rice had me reaching for my drink. The surprise here, however, is the mango pineapple salsa, which isn't really salsa at all, but rather a huge serving of fresh mangos and pineapple all chopped together and topped with fresh green onions and cilantro. This makes the dish! Grabbing a forkful (or the included chopsticks) of all the flavors together is like a flavor explosion. Was I the only one that felt like pillaging the neighboring village after?

JACKIE: Arrr, me matey! I'll definitely be back around to wet me pipe.

DEVIL'S REEF, 5 p.m. to midnight, Wednesday-Saturday, 706 Opera Alley, Tacoma

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