Trinidadian restaurant St. James serves up global cuisine to please all palates.
Global Flavors Will Please All Palates
Dark hues in its design understate the upbeat ambiance of St. James, the new restaurant at 2017 14th Street, NW, between U and V Streets in Washington, DC. Smiles and immediate warmth from the staff behind the bar and others scurrying around greet arriving diners. Owner Jeanine Prime has worked diligently to open St. James for almost a year. The grand opening in May has been welcomed by fans of the St. James’ sister restaurant Cane, which has a smaller footprint and menu catering primarily to takeout.
Buildout of St. James took longer than expected. Prime and her team keep loyal fans from Cane apprised with St. James status updates.
“We did a monthly subscription service that was a part of our process for developing St. James’ menu,” Prime said.
Positioning Trinidad’s modern Caribbean cuisine for St. James reflects the region’s merging of cultures that are African, East Indian, Chinese, Portuguese and French influences. Menu items were created by Prime, Cane culinary veteran Emma Hernandez and Alfredo Romero Contreras, St. James’ newly appointed chef formerly at Fiola Mare in Georgetown. Glendon Hartley, whose parents are from Trinidad, oversees the creation of the wine list and cocktails from Trinidad and the Caribbean region. Desserts are designed by Winnette McIntosh Ambrose, owner of the award-winning Capitol Hill bakery The Sweet Lobby and the global market called Souk. Ambrose and Prime are childhood friends from Trinidad.
On the menu is an assortment of kinds of seafood, smoked meats, and sides. I kept reading the descriptions on the menu. Everything looked good. The staff took their time responding to my questions.
I ordered the Crab and Dumpling entrée made with soft shell crab and taro dumplings in a coconut curry sauce. Taro is a root vegetable with a semi-soft texture. The combination was served in a coconut curry sauce. This dish was scrumptious and not like anything I had tasted before. The Side Sampler was a trio that included coconut rice, smoky collard greens and plantains. The greens were not cooked with meat, but they were smoked, allowing me to experience another way to enjoy fresh greens. The coconut rice was a little dry, but when I added some of the coconut curry sauce from the crab and dumpling entrée, the rice was just right.
I was convinced by a couple of staff to try the Macaroni Pie, a traditional Trinidadian dish, that looks like American macaroni and cheese. St. James takes their version up several notches by using cheese that was smoked at the restaurant. What I really liked about the Macaroni Pie was that it was not “over-cheesy.” America has become obsessed with using multiple types of cheeses in macaroni and cheese preparation. St. James takes the approach of “less is more” with a smoky under-taste as a better way to go.
Outside of owning two restaurants, Prime has a Ph.D. from Cornell and has enjoyed a successful career in human resources research. Analyzing teams is in her DNA. It looks like HR and organizational skills will guide St. James on a path to success.
St. James at 2017 14th Street, NW is open for dinner service Monday through Thursday from 5:30 to 10:30 and Fridays and Saturdays from 5:30 to 11:30. Follow on Instagram at @stjamesdc or visit stjames-dc.com for more information.
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