3820 S. Ferdinand St
Seattle WA 98118
Great Caribbean Style Cuisine in Seattle
By: Grant Y
Hearing the name Kallaloo can strike up the imagery of an exotic plant from across the horizon or a mesmerizing native musical instrument. The true meaning perhaps, is a simple play on the word "callaloo", a popular Caribbean dish served in areas such as Jamaica or Barbados.
While Seattle has a good representation of ethnic restaurants, especially of the Asian variety, Caribbean has always been an area that hasn't seen much attention, save for a few hole-in-the-wall establishments. In that regard, Kallaloo has taken a bold step with a contemporary restaurant in the heart of Columbia City at the intersection of Ferdinand and Rainer Ave. With modern amenities such as free wi-fi, Kallaloo is obviously hoping to attract the younger generation of Seattlites taking up residence in the area.
Our visit was during a nice, sunny weekend afternoon, where we found parking up the street close to the residential areas. There is also a parking lot across the street that offers $1 parking for two hours (during the afternoon, at least), for those who prefer less hassle when looking for parking. Kallaloo is located next to Jones BBQ and has big windows and a smallish pastel sign that might be hard to spot at night.
The interior of Kallaloo is well thought out and quite a find for the Columbia City area. If you've been to the Caribbean, you'll smile with the sense of familiarity at the look and feel of Kallaloo. The interior is spacious, with ceiling-high windows and a roomy layout. The feeling is very relaxing, especially with the peach toned walls and leafy shaped ceiling fans that evoke a feeling of relaxing outside. Even the bar even is designed to look like wooden screens opening up to a beach scene, which was a quaint touch. Overall, the restaurant achieves a very contemporary yet homey feel-quite nice for Columbia City.
While our review was during lunch, Kallaloo does have a more extensive menu for dinner guests. Nonetheless, the lunch menu had ample items and we selected some well-known Caribbean dishes such as Jerk Chicken ($11.95), Creole Fish ($11.95) and a Cuban Pork Sandwich ($7.95). We also selected appetizer and dessert dishes that included Curried Crab Cakes ($9.95) and Rum Soaked Raising Bread Pudding ($5.25).
Service was not a problem at Kallaloo, though it should be noted that we were among the first to arrive and were the only diners up until about 1:00pm. Our waitress was a lady named Gail, who was friendly and helped recommend dishes to us and appeared to run the restaurant with her husband / chef. We did not see any other chefs or wait staff around however, which indicates that lunch or weekends might normally be slower and probably a good time to come if you want to avoid the crowds.
The value of the meal was good, but a little bit on the pricey side. The portions were fair-sized and should leave most diners happy at the end of the meal.
The crab cakes were made with curry, crabmeat, bell peppers, onion and were drizzled with lines of fresh mango sauce. This worked well, as ingredient complemented each other well, while there was just enough curry to add a nice aroma and flavor. There was an abundance of crabmeat in the cakes, while filler was a minimum. The mango sauce was a little sweet in context of the curry and worked much better with the salad. There was just the right amount of crisp to the cakes, which were not fried in oil nor seared, but light and crisp in texture. I would have liked a little extra spice to the crab cakes themselves, though one could easily ask for side of Caribbean hot sauce (use sparingly - you've been warned).
The jerk chicken was moist and had a smoky flavor, with thick layer of seasonings that covered the chicken quarter. It was a bit different from other jerk chicken I've had (even in Jamaica) as I was expecting a heavy fire-grilled dish. Kallaloo's jerk chicken was more subdued on the grill, while still having a peppery and herb rich infusion. The side of red beans and rice was starchy with hints of sweetness while the fried plantains were wonderful goodness that must be tried. Price is a little high for the jerk chicken, but I imagine part of it comes from the ambiance of Kallaloo.
I had the pan-fried tilapia with peppers, onions, cous cous and callaloo. The tilapia was very flavorful and moist - likely a result of being fried. The red and green peppers were not over cooked. The cous cous, which is similar to polenta, was a bit bland and definitely could have used some seasoning or salt. The callaloo was similar to pureed spinach, both in taste and texture.
Overall, it was a pleasant experience at Kallaloo in Seattle and one that we wouldn't mind repeating for dinner or lunch if we're ever again in the area or looking for solid Caribbean food.