After reading that Assab restaurant won "best eritrean" in the San Francisco Bay Guardian's "Best of the Bay '04," I dragged my reluctant husband to dinner there last night. I am a big fan of ethiopian and eritrean food but my husband is always put off by the slow service and inconsistent quality at most places in San Francisco. Imagine our surprise when we saw that the proprietor was the same gracious owner at my old favorite eritrean place, Asmara, that had closed down on Ocean Avenue a few years ago. Since we were famished, we ordered the beef sambusa, meat combination, and vegetarian combination. I am not a big fan of okra so I asked to substitute it with shiro in the vegetarian combination. When the food came everything was really tasty -- just as I had remembered at Asmara. The beef sambusa was nicely spiced with a crisp, non-greasy eggroll-like shell. The meat and veggie combos were delicious as well with a few minor complaints. The zigni was well seasoned and appropriately spiced but the beef was dry. I guesss this might be expected since it is a long cooked stew with a relatively lean meat. Also, I thought the shiro was kind of gummy and would substitute the kantisha (mushrooms) the next time around. What I really liked about our platter was that the outside edge was dotted with dollops of spinach, red and brown lentils, and a mound of fresh green salad for each of us. In fact, when I asked the owner about switching out the okra in the veggie combo, the owner steered me towards the shiro or the kantisha because all the other vegetarian choices would already be on our platter. The injera was soft and springy with a small amount of sourness and was quickly replaced as soon as we finished our first piece. Although the place was 3/4 full and the owner was the only person handling the front of the house, the service was really efficient and friendly. By the end of the meal, we were stuffed and still had some food left over. The bill ended up being $21 for the two of us (no drinks) which I thought was a pretty good deal. I was really happy with our meal and will definitely return to Assab whenever I have a hankering for eritrean food.
2845 Geary Boulevard (2 blocks west of Masonic)