I drive through the U District probably once a week, usually on my way to the home of one friend or another, and not often to wander my way through shops along the strip as I might in other neighborhoods. And once you start wandering the shops you start wandering through the adjacent restaurants — or maybe vice-versa in my case. Either way, the U District hadn’t really grabbed me beyond the Mt. Townsend Seastack cheese and other deliciousness at the Saturday farmers market.
Though if the U District and I haven’t yet found our wander compatibility, what I have done recently is dive into what can be the craziness on the Ave for select dining experiences. It started with repeated trips to Than Brothers for the chicken pho, one of the most perfect foods for our cold, wet winter nights. From there, a trip up the Ave to Jack’s Tapas Cafe, which not surprisingly I always expected to be um, Spanish, or at least tapas, but was in fact some of my favorite Chinese food in the city. I say was because I’m sad to report that it closed just over a week ago. Though the website seems to indicate that Jack (hence the name) and his crew might reappear at another location. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed.
So when I was instructed by someone especially food-savvy to check out Pam’s Kitchen, I put it at the top of my TO-EAT list. (I also have a to-do list — lots of them, if you must know — but this one is way more fun.) Pam’s is located on the corner of 50th and University so if you drive through the U District you’ve likely gone right past and maybe like me, you’ve glanced at the sign and wondered exactly what went on there but not gone in.
Once inside, the interior of Pam’s Kitchen is all bright primary colors, with an excellent view to what’s happening at the bustle-y intersection just outside the restaurant. They serve Trinidadian food, or the cuisine of “Trinbago,” the conjunction of Trinidad and Tobago I’d not seen before but was introduced to as I read through the menu. I think that I expected the food to more Caribbean in the vein I’m used to, but in fact it felt more Indian-influenced than I anticipated.
We started with the Citrus Rum Punch (oh man, can’t have too many of those…) and a Singha Lager, then moved directly to the Aloo pies you see here, two-seasoned potato patties served with a tamarind chutney that had quite a kick to it.
For entrees we each chose a different meat and curry option, though of the chicken, goat and lamb the last was clearly the hands-down winner. The excellent texture of the lamb paired with the spice of the curry was fantastic, and well-balanced by the slightly sweet dressing on the salad and the starch of the potato-chickpea side. The meal wasn’t complete, though, without the dahlpuri roti, one of two styles of unleavened roti bread made here. The dahlpuri version has a stuffing of ground chickpeas, cumin, fresh cilantro and garlic and as they say on the menu is a good wrapper for the food but also delicious on its own. The other is a paratha roti and apparently has a more flaky texture, though after trying the dahlpuri I’ll be hard-pressed to stray from this more dense, soft, spiced version of their roti.
The next time I visit I’ll likely have the Pelau, described on the menu as “boneless dark and white chicken swimming in an ocean of chopped carrots, celery, and white rice browned by pigeon peas or red beans.” Yum. And probably a side of the pumpkin as well, which my food-savvy friend tells me isn’t on the menu but is worth asking to see if they have it available. For dessert? Clearly the Cassava Pone-Cake, cake made with cassava root and coconut and served hot. Double yum!