It was a wondrous thing to see, watching these chowhounds transcend cultural boundaries..You'd think they'd been eating with their hands all their lives..I mean in public!!
Actually, it was pretty easy to look like we were pros, because of the injera, or "velcro bread", that seemed to catch every drop, crumb and morsel, and hang onto it til we got it safely past our lips...This was a steamed, yeasted sourdough "pancake", made from teff, the smallest grain in existance..(thank you Rubee, research assistant!!) It was plate, utensil and general flavor acoompaniment... Lest you think things would get too out-of-hand (!), there were plates of bread served in addition to the bread UNDER the mounds of stew, so the structure of things was never compromised. Luckily, there were no utensils, or someone would have gotten stabbed going for the last of the spicey fish, but I digress....
Complexity was the keyword of the evening; every flavor changed between the teeth and the palate..Even our honeyed wine, which I was fairly dubious of, as a Sauvignon Blanc kinda girl, was a pleaseant surprise...(9lives, since you couldn't make it, I drank yours!!) It started out way too sweet, then by the time it rolled to the back of your tongue, a bitter, dry breeze zapped it into a light, crisp experience...The same thing was true of all the flavors; they started with one taste, then turned in to something spicier, or more aromatic or, "What was THAT spice????"
We started with a selection of appetizers, 1)ground beef sambus, flavored w/garlic,cumin and onions, and 2)lentil and green pepper sambus, same spices...Fried VERY crispey, the hounds like these little turnovers more than samosas because of the crispiness and non- oilyness. Ye-Awaze Dabo, a heavy, whole grain bread was served with a thick ginger and pepper paste...So hearty, yet so spicey with that ginger!! Ayib Begomen was a buttermilk cottage cheese, which started out so mild, then left a peppery taste..
The first, must-have entree was the Kifto, Ethiopian steak tartare..As veggie voyeurs, Cfox and I wanted to watch them slam down that raw-beef, but they seemed less-than-enthralled by the heavy does of butter mixed into it....(butter is BIG in Ethiopian cooking) One of the carnivores will have to fill us in..They seemed way more excited by the most "chowhound-challenging" dish of Dulet; chopped red-meat, chopped liver and chopped tripe, in spiced butter and chili powder. The chowhounds rose to the occasion, and devoured this most unusual dish.(Imagine vultures on the African plains.. :) )
The favorite, amazingly enough, and the dish where someone could have lost a hand if we had forks, was the Yasa Wat, chunky white fish cooked in Berbere(Ethipoian hot spice) and herbs...Firm chunks of white fish in a pungent sauce...Those meat-eaters went right for it..Every piece of injera under the stew was gone..
In fact, the veggies here had a consistancy and complexity that made them very appealing to omnivores...Our 2 person tasting platter of 4 veg entrees was very popular; we thought this would be a great dinner place for your favorite vegetarian. Our Timatim salad had juicey tomatoes and onions,hyped with a hot green pepper...Then the collards(no butter), cooked al dente in herbed oil, onions and peppers..Definitely not yo mama's collard greens, these still had bite and bitterness, not pot likker! Atkilt was a mix of potatoes, green beans, carrots and onions..Think of a chunky version of the filling inside a samosa. Yemeser Wat (lentils simmereD in hot spicy berbere sauce) and Mittin Shuro Wat(ground split peas, same sauce), were wonderful, if similar...We were forced to go back and forth between the two, trying to qualify the differences.
All of these dishes were intense, multi-layered flavors...It made me think of the wide range of Indian spices, yet without the oil...All cooked into spicey stews..The injera was light, and lent yet another texture to the experience...Our meal came to $18.50 a person, including a bottle of wine, a steal for the South End...The only caveat I would have is TELL THEM YOU WANT IT HOT!!!!! We felt that as intriguing as the flavors were, they held the heat level down when the saw our lily-white faces, and delicate rose-bud mouths...We needed a chowhound passport for this place!
There were 6 of us; Ben (who needs to post w/a better name!), his friend Steve, me, Rubee, Cfox, and her husband..Why, you ask, don't I know cfox's husband's name, after sitting across from the man and talking non-stop for 2 hours? Because right when I was going to ask him to repeat it, he launched into a topic near and dear to my heart--how to store ginger!! So I never got around to asking him, and must now beg forgiveness in a public place!!! But he had great ginger advice; now if only he'd start posting!!!
We had so much fun, we had to go across the street and have dessert at Aquitaine...Rubee FORCED us to eat some more!! (of course, she says I forced her to have a mussel appetizer there before we went to Addis Red Sea, but it was the shallots that made us do it!!) We still haven't decided what our next meal will be, tho.....