An appealing space and an appealing menu, too, of mainly Southern dishes with updates here and there.
Owners Temacca McMurtry and Devon Dent opened Pajé in late July, in the building that last housed Soche restaurant; it's named for an ancestral village in Africa.
The plates at that first meal put in a pretty solid performance, at prices that were easy to love.
Catfish ($10.79, $8.49 for a half order) was satisfyingly crisp outside and moist within its cornmeal breading. Even a half order, with steak fries, coleslaw and large hush puppies, was an ample meal.
Shrimp and grits ($8.59) had the right spice, but the grits were setting up - too firm for this dish.
Perhaps that was partly a function of the wait in getting our entrées that night; a full house and a backed-up kitchen, maybe, in combination with a server who was still learning her way.
Some servers on my visits were quite good, but others had yet to get their footing - essential matters like remembering to check back after dishes are served, or bringing the tab in a timely way when the meal is finished. In their favor, though, was the utmost hospitality Pajé's staff conveyed, from door to table. Making guests feel welcome is a gift not every restaurant has.
After an initial stumble, the dishes were all smooth sailing.
A shareable appetizer of fried green tomatoes ($6.79) was cleverly given the caprese treatment - interspersed with slices of fresh mozzarella and basil leaves.
What would usually be a homey dish of chicken and dressing ($8.59) got a polished look. A boneless breast was rolled with soft, sage stuffing, sliced and fanned across the plate, and served with candied sweet potatoes and well-seasoned greens. That's a dish to look forward to having again as autumn bears down.
A pan-seared pork chop ($8.59) was a pleaser, too, served with Southern potato hash - with onion and bell pepper slices - and mustard beurre blanc. That's a healthy meal in itself, but diners can choose another side dish, and creamed spinach with Parmesan stole the show: fresh spinach sautéed with a deft hand and cloaked lightly in that flavorful sauce.
It's fair to say that red velvet cake has become an American obsession, appearing as cupcakes and even frozen custard. So there was no question I'd try Pajé's red velvet waffles and wings ($8.49)-- again, with four whole crispy wings, it was a generous plate. The waffle's served with whipped cream and pancake syrup (the plate is dusted with chopped parsley for color, but it's a jarring flavor with the sweet waffle).
Some sandwiches and burgers are on the menu, and the two I tried were terrific (and huge): a juicy, handmade, half-pound burger on a toasted roll ($8.59), with steak fries, and fried chicken breast sandwich ($8.49), juicy and crisp. Diners minding their calories can choose a grilled breast instead, and vegetables for a side dish, a nice option.
Banana pudding ($3.99) - the Nilla wafer classic - is the straightforward, homestyle classic; a slab of poundcake ($3.59), though, was grilled and caramelized.
Altogether, Pajé walks that line of giving diners classics they crave while updating dishes for a polished setting. These are tasty plates, at prices that are easy to swallow.
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