Chef Peter Prime might have left D.C. without a casual sit down Trinidadian restaurant for a few months, but his new spot at 403 H Street NE is ready to go. After stealing the hearts and stomachs of diners at his restaurant within a restaurant at Engine 12, Prime, and his sister Jeanine Prime, are back with the spicy, savory, smokey flavors you know and love.
In fact, many of the dishes that triggered rave reviews at Spark also make an appearance on the new menu. The jerk wings, jerk brisket, red snapper and mac and cheese have all found homes at Cane, where they’re almost certain to draw the same attention. Yet, it’s the new additions, the heaping tiffin box, the bright ripe paw paw salad and the buttery Hop’s sliders that make Cane stand apart. This isn’t just Spark with a new name, it’s an entirely different restaurant with new food, new drinks and a new space to boot.
And before we get into the food, let’s talk about this space. While Engine 12 was cavernous and moody, Cane is small and bright. Its tall ceilings and cheery orange walls make the restaurant feel airy despite the tight quarters, but with its small number of tables and minuscule bar, grabbing a seat here is going to be challenging. Hell, if Cane is half as popular as Spark was, it’s going to be down right impossible.
If you do manage to grab a seat, you should start off with one of the best drinks on the menu: the Purple Poison. Combining white rum, lime and a housemade sorrel-basil syrup, the drink is tailor made for summertime. The sorrel brings a tart sweetness to the party, while the white rum and lime keep everything feeling very tropical. It’s the kind of drink that can fool you into have one too many… And after you do, the Island Life is a good cocktail to break things up. It has more rum (are you sensing a theme), a mango-ginger shrub with an edge and a dose of ginger beer to really bring that spice home. The shrub almost makes you feel like you’re drinking something healthy (you’re not).
The cocktail menu might be packed with drinks that will make you feel like it’s summer (regardless of the weather), but its Cane’s menu that will be calling people in like a siren song. Don’t miss out on the ripe paw paw salad made with cold chunks of papaya and avocado that are topped with thin slivers of bird pepper chilis. Pair the salad with a couple of buttery Hop’s sliders (featuring melt in your mouth Trinidadian Hops bread and smokey brisket or duck salad) and you’d have a very solid meal. Throw in an order of Doubles with their fluffy fry bread and heaping of curried chickpeas and you’ve set yourself up for a damn good night.
But if you did that, you’d miss out on the Prime’s pièce de résistance, the Tiffin Box. Served in stainless steal bowls stacked on top of each other like vertical Russian nesting dolls, the box comes with an assortment of curries that highlight India’s influence on Trinidadian cooking. The chicken is succulent, the beef packs a serious punch and the chickpeas pair perfectly with the torn up roti.
Cane will open to the public on April 22. Get there before everyone else does.