Normally I ramble about my belief that Ethiopian restaurants are great first date restaurants. You get to eat with your hands, it's an exotic cuisine to figure out together, etc. Rehoboth, however, is not such a great first date restaurant. You feel like you're walking into someone's college apartment when you step inside. The place is outfitted in cheap tables and chairs and the carpet, even if it's not old and stained, feels that way in memory. To get to the dining area you walk through an unused room with a counter and stools that looks like they came out of a 70s coffee shop. It's not a place high on ambiance.
It can still be a good place to go with friends or dates (as long as it's not a first date). On our first trip we had the Kik Alitcha (yellow lentils) ($8.95) and the Doro Tibs (chicken with onions and peppers) ($10.50). I've had these dishes at many Ethiopian restaurants and they were definitely above average here, and almost on par with Zeni, my favorite Ethiopian restaurant. After this trip I would have given Rehoboth 4 stars.
I had heard the red lentils were the thing to order at Rehoboth so when I couldn't order them my first visit because they'd run out, I called ahead the next several times we considered eating at Rehoboth. The third time I called they finally had them in stock so we raced down to try them. While the Yemisir Wot (red lentils) ($9.95) was described on Chowhound as smoky and better than Zeni's, we definitely disagreed. It lacked the spiciness and complexity of Zeni's lentils, and we didn't notice any smokiness. We even visited Zeni a week later to double check and they still won the red lentil match-up handily.
We also had the Siga Wot ($10.50) described on the menu as lean beef cubes and onions in a berbere sauce. We spent our meal trawling for beef through the copious amounts of sauce. Also, some of the beef cubes were almost as small as shredded pieces of beef (which is why they were hard to find), and despite being described as lean, a few of the pieces had large fatty deposits. I didn't really care for the sauce (though my husband did) so I left this dish alone. After this trip I would have given Rehoboth 2 stars. Overall I have to give it 3 out of 5.
I really want to like this place more because the people working here couldn't be nicer. The chef and owner always comes to your table to see what you think of the food. Zeni could definitely take a page out of their book when it comes to customer service.
One interesting thing of note about the Veggie Combo: The description for it on the menu lists other dish numbers on the menu that it includes (e.g. 18) Kik Alitcha, 19) Collard Greens), and it includes the number for the combo itself. It's like an infinitely repeating combo.
The owner told me she hopes to set up a coffee bar with baked goods for the front counter.
There are usually plenty of parking spaces in front. I'd avoid the lot down the street which isn't lit up at night and looks kinda sketch.
Now that Zeni has gotten ridiculously busy some nights it's nice to have an alternative. (Some weeknights at Zeni I’ve arrived at 9:15 and waited an hour for a table. But then recently when I’ve gone to Zeni on a weekend night around 7:00 I’ve had no trouble!)
Rehoboth Ethiopian Cafe
655 N 6th St
San Jose, CA 95112
MY RANKINGS OF ETHIOPIAN RESTAURANTS IN THE BAY AREA
1)Zeni, San Jose
/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\(demarcation of entirely different echelon)
2)Blue Nile, Berkeley (closed)
3)Abyssinia, Oakland (closed)
5)Café Colucci, Oakland
6) REHOBOTH, SAN JOSE
9)Red Sea, Oakland
Past thread on Rehoboth:
Ethiopian at Cafe Rehoboth in San Jose's Japantown
My review of Zeni:
Ethiopian in San Jose - Zeni: Come Come for the Gored Gored, Stay Stay for the Firfir