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Café Colucci, Oakland

Melanie Wong | Jun 8, 200305:24 PM

Last Wednesday, our group of five women chose Café Colucci for our monthly dinner. While none of us had been here before, we’d all tried Ethiopian food previously although for me it had been a few years since my last go-round. Upon making a reservation, we were informed that we would be required to order a minimum of five dinners – no problem for this group!

Walking up to the restaurant for the first time, it had great curb appeal with some sidewalk tables and a coffee bar. The inside was more stylish than I expected, painted in muted tones, and the ceilings are draped for a soft and soothing effect. Our glass-topped table housed compartments filled with many colors of legumes and grains. We amused ourselves trying to identify the various lentils, forms of wheat, and the tiny grain, teff, the Ethiopian staple.

We ordered two of the pre-selected dinner combinations: one vegetarian, one with meat, and then supplemented those with whatever else looked interesting. We had, as described on the menu –

#14 Veggie combo, $9.95:

#1 Messer-wot – organic split lentils in berbere sauce simmered in besobela, fresh crushed garlic, red onions & spices, livelly and hot legume.

#2 Kik-alacha – organic split pea in turmeric sauce cooked with fresh sliced ginger, bessobela, selected herbs and spices.

#4 Atakilt – fresh string beans, carrots and potatoes sauteed with onions, fresh tomatoes, ginger & garlic in turmeric sauce.

#5 Gomen – collard greens sauteed with onions, tomatoes, garlic and olive oil (jalapeño peppers optional).

#11 Azifa (cold) – whole lentils, imported senafitch (Ethiopian mustard), garlic, onions, jalapeño pepper, olive oil, and fresh lemon.

#12 Buticha (cold) – Special fava bean powder, garlic, onions, jalapeño, olive oil, and fresh lemon puree. A delicious experience.

#29 Meat combo, $10.95:

# 24 Doro wat – a traditional favorite: fresh chicken legs sauteed in berbere, clarified butter, minced red and shallot onions sauce. Usually eaten for special occasion or holiday.

#25 Doro alicha – deliciously seasoned chicken with fresh ginger and fresh garlic. In a mild and delicious sauce.

#26 Begue wot – lamb cubes and shanks cooked with minced red and yellow onion in berbere and garlic sauce.

#27 Sega alicha – beef cubes and ribs simmered in turmeric sauce. This light and tasty dish has great ginger flavor.

#28 Gomen be sega – fresh collard greens and beef sauteed with garlic, ginger, yellow onions, and spiced butter.


#7 Eggplant tibs, $9.95 – eggplant sauteed with garlic, onions, bell pepper. Available in turmeric mild or berbere sauce hot.

#10 Shuro fitfit, $5.95 – seasoned organic chickpea powder, onions, roma tomato, jalapeño or bell pepper & olive oil.

#13 Salata, $5.95 – diced roma tomato, onions, green leaf lettuce, jalapeño, fresh lemon juice & olive oil. Simply fresh!

#16 Doulet, $9.95 – a challenging delicacy of minced lamb-tripe & liver and lean top round beef, sauteed onions, jalapeño in seasoned butter and mitmita.

#23 Shrimp Tibs, $12.95 – fresh shrimp sauteed with onions, bell pepper, jalapeño & fresh tomato in lightly spicy white wine sauce

Two heaping aluminum trays arrived, which looked much like the photo below, heaped with a colorful mosaic of many different tastes on top of a circle of injera. Two baskets of teff injera, rolled into small spongy cylinders and served room temperature, accompanied. Cynthia and I both noted the dark bronzish color of the injera and wondered whether this might be the first time we’ve had injera made from genuine injera.

In general, I liked the vegetable selections better. They seemed fresher with more clarity of flavor. The meat dishes were not as distinctive a selection with repetition of seasoning. The two pre-selected combinations did sample from the best dishes and are a safe bet for trying a good variety.

Standouts were #4, 5, 7, and 12. My personal favorite was #7 Eggplant Tibs, although Ellen was the lone one out who didn’t care for this. Cynthia was wild for #4 Atakitt, liking the fresh sauteed veggies in this one. After a while, having ingested so much injera (using it as a scoop) with slow-cooked meats and the starchy pastes, I was glad we had ordered #13 Salata for some raw greens with a sparkling citrusy dressing to brighten things up. Most interesting was #16 Doulet, which only Kathy and I were willing to eat (we were surrounded by offal-phobes). It was incredibly rich, so a little went a long way, and I enjoyed the unique fire of the mitmit seasoning.

There were two things that we didn’t like. #10 Shuro Fitfit which seemed like a pile of soggy starchy injera without much in the way of distinctive flavor or character - perhaps we were on injera overload. #23 Shrimp Tibs was controversial – neither Ellen nor I liked this dish. To me the shrimp was less than fresh and we were both bothered by a musty spice in the mix. However, others thought it was fine. I noticed that the pieces of beef in the various meat combos were gristley. While I happen to like this texture, others may not.

I had brought a bottle of wine to share, 1997 Dehlinger Russian River Valley Chardonnay. Corkage was $7. We also tried a glass of Ethiopian honey wine, $4.50. This smelled like honey and yeasty bread dough. It was medium sweet with an earthy, herbal note. We passed it around for each to taste, but none of us felt compelled to drink more of it.

We had quite a bit left over, enough to feed another person. Our bill with tax and tip came to $19 per person.

For those who have not tried Ethiopian cuisine before, this is eaten with the hands. The fingernails on my right hand were stained yellow from the turmeric spicing.

Café Colucci
6427 Telegraph Ave.



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