Abyssinia

Name of Restaurant: Abyssinia Ethiopian Restaurant
Location: 2109 Avent Ferry Rd, Raleigh, NC 27606

Cuisine: Ethiopian
Date: 10/17/2010
Time: 2:00 pm

What we ordered:
Food:
1. Lentil Sambusa
2. Meat Combination
3. Yebeg Wat (And I’ll explain what it is in the Notes)
4. Two glasses of red wine (from some part of Africa, which I don’t quite remember. No, not Ethiopia!)
5. Baklava
6. Freshly brewed Ethiopian coffee

The boy paid:
$ 67 (tip inclusive… meal for 2)

Rating:
1. Ambience: 9/10
2. Service: 8/10
3. Food: 10/10

Notes:
1. A tall, slender, dark skinned lady runs the place. She wore a white shirt and black trousers. Her hair tied back tight. Her English, broken. The restaurant empty, when we walked in.
2. The restaurant itself, was very basic. Tables to seat 4 or 2, with chairs to accompany. A white table cloth and a plastic sheet to cover. The walls had paintings from the country and Sisal trays. (Yes, I remember the word. Extended family lived and worked in Nairobi for several years and got my mum Sisal shopping bags every time they visited.) A section of the restaurant had stools and huge Sisal baskets that doubled up as mini coffee tables. The Ethiopian flag was pinned against one wall. The windows were covered with pretty curtains with tricoloured stripes, representative of the country’s flag. On the whole, it gave this very small-time-restaurant-in-random-galli-in-India feel.

Sisal 'furniture'
A Sisal wall hanging and a Christian painting

3. The Sambusa: it’s a samosa. They had lentils or beef sambusas. Beef is never Rohit’s first preference. So lentil sambusa, it was. The lentils had been tossed in garlic and onions and possibly some greens. The sambusa, as such, was dry. But it DID make for a quick-to-arrive appetizer.

Lentil Sambusa and Red Wine

4. I was down a glass of some really good red wine by then and called for another glass.
5. The meat combination was a plate with some Ethiopian bread (injera) laid out at the bottom. The meats served on top. Accompanied with some salad and some freshly made, crumbled cottage cheese. The platter had three varieties of meat: two lamb, one chicken.
Doro Wat (chicken): A boiled egg and a chunk of chicken served with a thick, deep red, spicy gravy. It was a very Konkani preparation, if I may call it that.
Yebeg Wat (lamb): Succulent mid-sized chunks of lamb cooked in a sauce comprised of red pepper, garlic and onion and spiced to perfection.
Yebeg Alicha (lamb): Small pieces of lamb braised in a turmeric based sauce and some ginger and garlic.
6. The second main course was another lamb dish: Abyssinia Special Yebeg Tibs, which consists of lamb cooked in a tomato based gravy, blended with rosemary and onions.
7. Clearly, yebeg is lamb. Doro is chicken.
8. Every entree is served with a single injera. We got both entrees on a single plate, and two portions of injera.
Injera: Traditional Ethiopian bread made from a grain called teff. Fermented dough cooked pretty much like a dosa, to a size of about 20 inches (diameter), it is meant to be eaten with the hands, just like Indian chapatis.
9. I like knowing new stuff about different cultures. Part of my preparation pre-lunch was reading up on Ethiopian cuisine.
Here’s some information: A goorsha is an act of friendship. During a meal with friends, a person may strip off a piece of injera, roll it in the sauce, and then put the rolled injera into a friend’s mouth. This is called a goorsha. The larger the goorsha, the stronger the friendship.
I fed G a goorsha. He never returned the gesture. :S
10. In the picture below,
11 o’clock is Doro Wat.
4 o’clock is Yebeg Wat.
Half past 5 is Yebeg Alicha.
In the center is Yebeg Tibs.
The white mass to the left of the chicken (and egg) is the cottage cheese.
One large injera is spread out at the bottom of the plate. The other one has been cut into two pieces and rolled up and served on either side.
At 2 o’clock and 7 o’clock is some salad, just lettuce and tomatoes.

Two entrees in one

11. My fancy boyfriend needed a fork to cut the egg. Quite cute! Here’s a picture of the empty plate:

Take only as much as you can eat, they say. Also, it is plain wrong to waste food, for one: it

12. The service was slow. But I’m guessing that’s because business looked slow. And in their defence, they were making everything from scratch. My only complaint was that I was starved. The restaurant and the lady who served us gave the food-to-come such an authentic feel, that it made the wait seem a tad too long. No regrets for having waited that long though. I absolutely loved the food.
13. The receipt says the wine was South African.
14. Coffee, it turns out, originates from Ethiopia and is a central part of Ethiopian beverages. The coffee is brewed in a clay pot called a jebena and then poured out into cups. Also, traditionally, three rounds of coffee are served.
15. The baklava was good: flaky, buttery, sweet and with the right amount of dates and walnuts and cinnamon and everything else that goes into it.

Coffee and Baklava

16. Among other things, the hostess struck up a conversation with us and we compared Ethiopian food and Indian cuisine: spices, the concept of eating with fingers and not using a fork/spoon, all that. And when we left, she asked us to come again. I’m going, sure thing! Oh also, just so you know, they have a $10 buffet on weekdays. That should be kifaayti and killer!

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