I remember as a child, we used to go for Ethiopian food a fair amount. Mostly this sticks in my head because it was the only time we were not yelled at for eating with our fingers (which I’m pretty sure we did, regardless of cuisine). So when my roommate demanded I try this Eritrean place, I embraced the opportunity to use the one utensil that makes all food taste better–the hands.
Despite being hidden behind the Oh Boy Oberto factory store on Ranier, we found the little hideaway fairly easily and were seated immediatley in the small room. A full bar was stocked behind us and the TV was showing Eritrean television (which included Soccer and pasta-making, as I recall).
We ordered a vegetarian platter and Kitfo. The vegetarian platter was similar to what I remember from previous East African food experiences, only larger. I huge platter made of Injera, the spongy buckwheat bread, was dotted with a variety of vegetable preperation, often stew like and involving lentils. Now, I have to say, my biggest pet peeve is when people tell me they don’t like Ethiopian food because they don’t like Injera. Now, I know if you eat Injera on its own it is very bitter and dry and no good at all. But it has NO flavor when you wrap it around lentil mixes and veggies. It is simply a great tool for eating the stews as well as becoming a soft, yummy texture with the moisture. So don’t try that complaint on me, people. Every dish on the veggie platter was rich and delicious. Unlike other places, I never started avoiding certain spots. By the end, all that was left of the injera platter was little dots of color indicating the type of dish that had been there.
The Kitfo, which my roommate ordered for us may be the closest food has ever come to sex for me. It is raw ground beef with hot butter and berebere (a spicy spice mix) poured over it. It is served with a soft, buttery, whipped cheese. So you use your injera to pick up some meat, dab some cheese on top and eat. It is a lovely squishy, rare steak texture to it, while the heat of the berebere is set off by the coolness of the cheese. Sublime.
The service was in general very good. They checked back with us often, making sure that we had enough injera. At the end, it took a while to get our check, but that was because our waitress was very involved with a coffee ceremony, which is an extremely complex procedure involving incense on the table and a lot of ritual. She was forgiven, as we were fascinated to watch this.