Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Island Soul

I just came from lunch at Island Soul, the new Caribbean restaurant in Columbia City, and I think I have found my new Columbia City favorite.

Island Soul is in the building that used to house the (now gone) Wellington, and the new owners (who used to own Casuelita's Island Soul in the Central District) have done a nice job changing the feel of the place. Instead of the sultry, dingy darkness that used to be the Wellington, the new place is full of light, and has cheery, clean bright feel.
The menu was surprisingly vegetarian friendly (was I dreaming it up?) and in my order I modified a BBQ tofu sandwich to be Jerk Tofu sandwich. As we waited for our food, the owner's wife came out of the kitchen to check in with me because their Jerk sauce is made with meat. She offered some other ideas, and we decided upon giving the tofu a vegetarian spice rub. With my sandwich, I had a choice of salad or Caribbean slaw, and chose the latter.

The sandwich came and was tasty. The tofu was hot and soft, just how I like it, and had a slightly piquant spice rub. The sandwich also had some raw onions and chopped tomato and garlicky mayonnaise-y sauce. It is hard not to compare a Caribbean style sandwich to the messy saucy delight that comes from Paseo, and with that in mind, I could have probably enjoyed a few more ingredients in the sandwich (maybe something like grilled onions and jalapenos).
The Caribbean style coleslaw was my favorite type of slaw: plenty of vinegar and no mayonnaise. It was a nice mix of both green and purple cabbage, carrots, tomato, peppers, and bits of other finely chopped veggies.
We also ordered a side of their Collard greens, which are vegan (!). They were the best greens I've had in a restaurant anywhere. They had plenty of flavour, but weren't over salted. They were meltingly tender, but still seemed fresh and structurally intact. And, they had bits of chopped carrots and peppers mixed in, which made them quite visually appealing.
The owner, who is also one of the cooks, came out to check up on our meal when we were done. He is a really friendly guy (in fact, the entire staff was exceptionally warm), and he told me that he had been raised a vegetarian, and his mother was quite the vegetarian cook growing up. He said he's got a mind full of delicious things to do with tofu.

Some other vegetarian items straight from the menu:

* An appetizer called, "Little Islands" that consists of little breads filled with savory black beans, feta and avocado
* BBQ Tofu sandwich
* Coconut cornbread
* Tamal Azteca (layered dish with tortillas, roasted vegetable, cheeses, and chipotles tomato sauce)
* Curried Tofu
* A dish of tofu with onions and peppers

And plenty more. I am so excited about this place! It is a moderately priced restaurant (sandwich was $7.50, most sides are $1-4, many dishes are in the $12-15 range, and there are a couple ranging up to about $19), which is a little more than I usually go for, but seems reasonable still. It's off to an exceptional start in my book, I am really stoked to go and try some more dishes.

Island Soul
(206) 329-1202
4869 Rainier Ave S
Seattle, WA 98118

Island Soul on Urbanspoon


pamela lang said...

Hey tofu hunter,
I feel the same way about this new addition to Columbia City.
I ordered their jerk pork sandwich which came with an extremely generous portion of meat. In fact I was able to bring enough of the meat home to make a sandwich for lunch tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

This is a great place. How interesting you didn't mention the real culinary brains behind the establishment - Jamaican born chef Bobby Lange (sp?). He is a quiet guy and prefers to stay in the kitchen out of the limelight, but we've been able to convince him a couple of times to come out and chat with us. When he's not around, you can tell the food quality goes down. Delish food and for us vegetarians - a real find!

Tofu Hunter said...

I guess I didn't say anything about Bobby Lange because I didn't know about him. Whatever they've got going, it's working! Thanks for the info!