When we reviewed Pimento Kitchen in 2013, we were skeptical. Even though it had won Food Network’s “Food Court Wars,” we didn’t expect much from the mall stall. We were happy to report that our doubts were unfounded: The flavorful, soulful food tempted us to return to Burnsville Center, but we never made it back.
Now that Pimento has opened on Eat Street in Minneapolis, we don’t have to head for the ’burbs for damn good Jamaican fare. Unlike the mall’s cavernous shared dining area, Pimento’s new space is well lit, spacious, and comfortable, and it turns into an open-air patio during warm weather. Diners who dig reggae and dance-hall music will find the place especially welcoming, and if there’s a wait, you can spend your time learning Jamaican slang from the artwork.
Like the original spot, the new Pimento has a brief, focused menu. We like the jerk chicken (but would like some dark meat mixed in with the light) and really like the curried veggies, but the slow-roasted jerk pork bowl ($10) is our go-to. Its juicy, tender meat is infused with jerk flavorings and comes off like a Caribbean cousin to carnitas and barbecued pulled pork. Pimento’s jerk pork is a tad spicy, a little sweet, and a whole lot delicious.
The pork’s bowlmates (rice, slaw, and plantains) are also excellent. We especially appreciate that Pimento doesn’t overdress its slaw — it’s nice and crunchy, nearly naked cabbage that adds a hint of vinegar and some texture to the meal. The caramelized plantains add a dessert aspect to the dish. Like classic pasties or TV dinners, Pimento’s bowls are complete meals with main, side, and dessert.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the jerk ranch sauce. Gimmicky? Sure. Tasty? Hell yeah. If you’re the kind of person who dips your pizza in ranch, you will go gaga for this kicked up version of the creamy salad dressing. We dipped pieces of pork in it without the least bit of embarrassment. And we’ll do it again! Damn the purists.
A note: we’d be skirting our duty if we didn’t ask: WTF is up with the tiny forks? We appreciate that they’re compostable — as is all of the tableware — but they seem like they were made for people with tiny fingers (Donald Trump?) or tiny mouths (not Donald Trump). Then again, maybe the forks are to make sure we savor, rather than wolf down, the delectable jerk pork.