Slow Burn

Pan Africa keeps you coming back for more.

LIKE MRS. ROBINSON, Pan Africa is trying to seduce you. Just look at where the new Pike Place Market restaurant is located: Within stumbling distance, you find the D骠 Vu strip club; the Rubber Rainbow condom shop is right next door; across the street is the Green Tortoise hostel, a possible site for erotic rendezvous; and to the right and left of the Tortoise, respectively, are a huge Altoids ad and a Starbucks plug, as if to say: Fresh breath before doing the deed, hot coffee the morning after. The perfect seduction. Well, maybe I'm projecting. What's really seductive about Pan Africa is the lovingly prepared food and the earth-toned walls, comforting like a warm bath on a chilly autumn day. At lunchtime, a rich aroma tantalizes you; mouth watering, you look at the menu and find a dozen disheshalf from Ethiopia, the other half from assorted West African countrieswith names that make your mouth dance when you say them: doro wott, yassa, and piripiri. Add the slow burn of succulent spices, meats, and root vegetables cooked just right, and operatic world beat music in the background, and the stage is set for culinary trysting. But Pan Africa owner Mulugeta Abate, a native of Ethiopia, has love on his mind, not lust. As in: labor of love. Formerly a manager at La Louisiana, Abate has big plans for his new place at the Marketlike in-store cooking classes and African breakfastbut he's going to need a little help from his friends. "I have different friends from different countries that are going to be coming in to do the classes," he says. "Whatever [food] we do for the class, we'll probably have as a special here for a few weeks, until we do the next class." When asked to name his favorite dish, Abate replies without hesitation: "Today my favorite dish is the seafood stew," a special that hails from Madagascar and demonstrates Pan Africa's commitment to moving diners beyond the relative familiarity of Ethiopian. Groundnut stew ($7.50), shrimp in hot red coconut sauce ($9), and the menu item Abate professes the most love for, doro wott (a combo of curried and spicy chicken with hard-boiled egg and tomato salad, $7), might be new concepts to fans of Ethiopia's spongy injera bread and wildly flavorful dabs of vegetables. You may be naive like Benjamin Braddock, but once Abate's place has its hooks in you, you won't want the lessons to stop.

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