When we walked into the courtyard at the Inn at Tamarind Court for dinner a few weeks ago, we were immediately greeted by good friends sitting at a table adjacent to the kitchen. They were packing up their healthy portions of leftovers into take away boxes and “warning” us about the incredible quality of flavor and thoughtfulness in every bite they had experienced that evening. Anxious to confirm their compliments and taste the source of the amazing smells wafting across the open-air courtyard, lit with warm white lights from the small kitchen, we cut conversation short, grabbed a table (and two margaritas) and got to work on the menu…
Chef Paulie Humble created Mexican nights at the Tamarind late last year, drawing from his experience cooking with his grandmother while growing up on the west coast, visiting Mexico regularly with his family and an extensive culinary background in the Seattle area. He joked with us as we finished up our meals that he wasn’t sure if his grandmother was (or was not) running tequila back and forth over the border on those family trips. But he was sure that the tricks of the culinary trade that she picked up south of the border and then made her own would be crowd pleasers here on St. John. And he was not wrong.
I am not kidding you all when I say that this was the BEST Mexican cuisine I have had since I left Denver in 2012. Every single flavor was spot on and obviously developed with fresh ingredients and a knowing hand. It was well balanced with just the right amount of spice…Some of the menu items featuring slightly sweet notes which was a beautiful balance to the slightly salty, ever so spicy cuisine.
We started with the Empanadas and Queso. Seems simple enough, right? No. I’m telling you DO NOT skip the queso; a blend of perfectly seasoned cheese accentuated with both texture and flavor by the queso fresco, cilantro and tomatoes that it was topped with. Oh, and the tortilla chips? Chef Paulie informed us in our after-dinner chat that every single one of them was hand cut and fried to order. And you can absolutely tell the difference in every bite.
The empanadas were both perfectly crisped without any greasy residue and topped with a lovely avocado aioli. Coming from someone who considers every trip to Puerto Rico incomplete without an empanada tour…Well, these were legit.
For dinner, I went for the Green Chilli Carnitas Enchiladas. If you have ever lived in Colorado, you know you judge an establishment on its green chili. And Chef Paulie also knocked this one out of the park.
Teddy had the Shredded Chicken Chimichanga. Both were perfect in texture and filled to the brim with fillings packed with flavor and simply topped with homemade salsas (or chilis) fresh veggies and queso fresco. Both of us had more than another meal to pack into our take-away boxes at the end of our meal.
Oh, with the exception of the fajitas, nothing on the menu was more than $20. Tell me where on St. John you can get a meal of this quality for that price?
But I won’t stop with the main course. The side dishes were what blew my mind. My meal came with rice and black beans. Listed just that way on the menu, plain and simple. But there was nothing simple about them. Remember Paulie’s grandmother’s culinary secrets? Well, he shared them with me with the disclaimer that I wouldn’t share them with you 😉 So, I’ll keep my lips sealed about the secrets behind the slightly sweetened “dirty” rice and the rich and decadent black beans that were the first things to disappear from my take-away box the next day.
As we were leaving, Chef Paulie called us back to the window to hand over yet another small box. “Churros?” I asked with an eager smile.
Chef Paulie explained that what we would find in the box was a sweet treat with homemade Mexican chocolate sauce that most closely resembled what would happen if a Churro and a Beignet met in New Orleans and….Well, I’ll save you the graphic details 🙂 He was spot on with his comparison, but I would throw a little something about Cinnamon Toast Crunch into that mix as well. They were divine but I highly advise taking them home with you. The decadence had me taking one bite about every 20 minutes. These desserts are a marathon, not a sprint.
The Inn at Tamarind Court and Chef Paulie are hosting Mexican Night Monday-Friday from 3PM-8PM and I highly recommend not missing out on this gem of a dining experience in a very St. John centric setting the next time you are visiting. Oh and don’t forget to ask about the nightly specials. Breakfast is also served at the Tamarind Monday-Saturday from 7AM-11AM and Sunday from 7AM-Noon, offering another eclectic experience not to be missed!
The Inn at Tamarind Court location & menu information can be found on their website and take out is available by calling them directly at 340-776-6378.