Atmosphere: Subdued chic.
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 5 to 11:30 p.m.
Price range: $4.75 to $7.95.
Credit cards: All major credit cards.
Special facilities: Accessible to wheelchairs; street parking.
There was not a lot of enthusiasm for my proposed trip to the Kaieteur. The semi-revolt centered around Caribbean food. What is it, my children wanted to know, and why couldn't we go out for pizza instead?
Kids will be kids, and parents, parents; we went, some with less-than-smiling faces, to see what Caribbean food was all about.
The name, Kaieteur, refers to a Caribbean waterfall, and the Kaieteur restaurant and lounge is sprightly and fresh enough to reflect its name. The sand color scheme and cane chairs create a pleasantly subdued Caribbean setting in the main floor dining room. Upstairs, Kaieteur boasts a lounge with dancing until the wee hours. Judging from the flow of customers the evening we were there, the lounge is a popular neighborhood gathering place. The restaurant is less crowded.
The menu at Kaieteur is something of a challenge. We weren't familiar with several of the dishes, but our waiter, who spoke with a gentle, lilting Caribbean accent, made great efforts to introduce us to the nuances of such Caribbean delights as black pudding, souse, mettagee, sorrel drink and rice of the day cookup, which was black-eyed peas, rice and pig's tail.
Since most main courses at Kaieteur are $4.95 to $5.95, we felt we could splurge on a few appetizers. Five of us--three children and two adults--shared three appetizers that gave us a preview of the main course seasonings. Black pudding ($1.35, available on weekends only) looked like an overstuffed knockwurst, which in a way is what it was, except that the thin sausage skin was stuffed with hot and very spicy rice.
Our son, who had rejected the usual soft drinks in lieu of sorrel ($1.25), a sweet herb drink, said he knew why the sorrel drink was so sweet--it helped cut the heat of the seasonings.
Beef patties ($1.35) turned out to be little pastries stuffed with meat that also had been well-seasoned with hot spices. The excellent pastry crust took the edge off the heat of the meat.
An order of barbecued chicken wings ($1.25) consisted of two wings cut into four pieces and covered with a tomato-based barbecue sauce that went well with the other dishes.
For the main courses our son's friend stayed with a very safe order of braised pork chop ($4.95), a good-sized chop served with rice and peas and a house salad. It was nicely prepared, if unexciting.
Our daughter, also choosing to stay with the more familiar, ordered beef stew ($4.95), which turned out to be an exceptionally good stew with soft pieces of lean meat and a rich gravy. The stew, served in a small casserole, could be ladled over a plate of rice with peas.
My husband and I branched out, ordering two of the evening's specialties: mettagee ($5.95) and dhal with rice and salted cod fish ($3.95). The mettagee was a vegetable plate of plantains, cassava and dumpling surrounding a portion of salted cod. Perhaps the unfamiliar vegetables are an acquired taste, for we found them difficult to love: bland and hard.
The dhal dish was easier to enjoy: a bowl of dhal that tasted like a pleasant split pea soup, a mound of rice and a portion of cod. The various parts went together very well.
There were no vegetarian dishes on the menu for our son, but the waiter assured him the kitchen would whip something up for him. They produced an order of potato balls ($1.20), the spiciest dish we tried that evening, and dhal puri ($2.25), a crepe made with dhal. These dishes plus a house salad ($1.25) were more than enough for a growing boy.
Desserts at Kaieteur are baked custard ($1.25), pine tarts ($1.10), or ice cream (75 cents). The custards still were baking the evening of our visit, so we shared two pine tarts, which turned out to be excellent pineapple tarts with well-cooked but not heavily sweetened pineapple and a thick, rich crust.
The tab for our dinner for five came to $39.21, including tax, a glass of wine, several soft drinks and a Kaieteur punch ($2.75), a fruit punch laced with alcohol.