A taste of home

Walls embellished with bright colors - a layering of blue, yellow and orange - transport many West Indians back home upon entering the new Trinidadian restaurant Pam's Kitchen.

"A lot of people are like, 'Oh, this reminds me of a rum shop' with the colors and just the feel of it, so we really did want to bring that part of Trinidad to Seattle. Everybody really just feels like they're home," said Anjuli Churaman, daughter of owners Patrick Churaman and Pam Jacob.

Rum shops are local Caribbean hangouts and bars, but you don't have to be from Trinidad to feel at ease in Pam's Kitchen.

Pam's Kitchen opened its doors on Sept. 22 at 5000 University Way N.E. in the University District. "We already have regulars," Anjuli said.

A cozy, corner business, this West Indian-style restaurant is a family affair and chef and co-owner Jacob's dream to open her own restaurant.

A local bit of Trinidad

Pam's Kitchen is a rare commodity for University District residents, as well as anyone in Seattle: It's the only place serving authentic Trinidadian food.

Originally from Trinidad, Jacob, her husband Patrick and their children Anton and An-juli, delight in delivering a piece of home to Seattle.

"All of the food, everything we make - none of it has a recipe.... When [Jacob is] in the kitchen, it's 'OK, a handful of this, a pinch of that,' and it just tastes perfect," Anjuli said.

The menu reduced by half since the opening to ease the stress on their one cook, now focuses on roti. " It's a well-known dish in the East and in Trinidad, and the minute you mention 'roti,' somebody asks you, 'Where?'" Patrick said.

Roti is a round, flat, unleavened bread that can be made numerous ways, accompanied by different meats and vegetables.

Pam also mixes unique punches: traditional Trinidadian drinks like Mauby (made from tree bark), the Sorrel (made from a flower) and her own creations. "I tried it with my kids, being able to give them some vegetable to eat or drink, and I started with the carrot and the pumpkin, which is really good," Jacob said.

All in the family

The Churamans have been in Seattle for 12 years now. Newcomers to the Seattle business world, they once owned their own café in Trinidad with Jacob as the chef. "People from all over, from university, from all walks of life came to eat," Patrick said.

The entire family immersed themselves fully into building their business, which started a little more than a month ago. Patrick, a general contractor, worked evenings, recruiting family and friends to perform a complete overhaul on the once, grease-laden Sushi Bar.

"The kids had a lot to do with the colors and galvanized things. My husband did the bar area, but they all helped; it was a family effort. The pictures - my daughter and niece took them on their trips to Trinidad last year," Jacob said.

Patrick built the wooden tables, re-carpeted the floors (with the help of Anjuli's boyfriend), installed the water lines, renovated the bathroom and installed new lighting in just six weeks.

"I did continue working, because we actually did this without a loan.... What I did was try to take the least amount of jobs and try to get those jobs done and come here and finish late in the night," Patrick said.

And their efforts have paid off. Many West Indians living in Seattle who didn't have a real gathering place are now regular guests. "We'[d] only been open for two weeks, and we've had Trinidadians come out from everywhere.... We didn't know there were so many of us here and other West Indians from the different Islands," Anjuli said.

When an East Coast relative comes in November to assist Jacob with the cooking, the Churamans can introduce area residents to even more traditional Trinidadian food.

"Right now, everything is still up in the air. I still want to bring out a bunch of different dishes, but because it's just me, I can't really get to a lot of the authentic stuff...," Jacob said. "Gradually, we're going to get there. We'll have a lot more dishes out."

Abby Lund writes about places Off the Beaten Path on the third Wednesday of the month. She can be reached at needitor@nwlink.com.[[In-content Ad]]