For some people, Yelp is a way to see how well a new restaurant down the street is rated. For me, Yelp is a way of life. My curiosity, appreciation for technology and innate love for food have made me into somewhat of a “foodie”. It’s one of my better qualities. But, it also left me slightly stumped when I eceived this assignment to eat at a restaurant whose culture I hadn’t already experienced.
After some serious brainstorming and a bit of in-class homework, I finally came upon an ethnic restaurant that had slipped through my fingers until then.
I’m glad it took me this long, because this assignment left me with a newfound love- Ethiopian Food. Of the details that really hang in my mind, one was definitely the mood of the restaurant. I went to Abyssinia Ethiopian Cuisine, a small unassuming place next to an ethnic market on a small street in Anaheim. I would ave missed it, had I not been looking for the address.
We parked in the first stall next to the door and went in about half an hour before close.
A wave of deliciously spiced air greeted me and my boyfriend as an older lady with an enormous smile walked us into the next room and offered any seat in the house. Every table had a simple tablecloth, a vase and a single flower. The walls were covered with paintings, prints and the occasional mirror. At the back of the room, there was a table about two feet tall curiously topped with eight small cups and accompanied by a stool.
I could not make out if it was for children to sit at or an offering table similar to those in some Asian cultures.
Music played softly and I could not help but notice the similarities to the little Indian music IVe heard, though this was certainly more soothing and relaxing. The lights were low and the ambiance was gentle, welcoming and ethnic at every turn. The menu was our next challenge once we found seats. I looked over the entirety of the options about 3 times before I admitted that I didn’t even know how to pronounce the first entr?©e. Every dish had an ethnic name and ibs’ sounded Just as crazy as ‘inJera’. My boyfriend recognized an appetizer being delivered to another table and the waitress helped us pinpoint it on the menu as sambusas.
We ordered one filled with beef and another with lentils. A navigating explanation later, we learned that Ethiopian dishes are served large and communal- style and that we knew nothing about what we were diving into. So we took the waitress’s advice, settled on Abyssinia Yebeg Tibs as our entr?©e and hoped for the best. Our waitress, who may have also been the owner, soon brought our appetizers. They came as flaky triangles on a plate with a small bowl of some green condiment that was mildly spicy and reminiscent of guacamole.
Two teeny spoons accompanied it, but they were rather inefficient in transferring enough to the sambusa and I quickly turned to dipping mine. Both sambusas were extremely savory, and you could still extremely flavorful, and it was my personal favorite. Our main entr?©e came soon after and the presentation was very different from any food I’d ever tried. We were brought a pizza pan about 15 inches across covered with inJera, a sour, spongy bread hat was extremely airy and bubbly on one side but flat, continuous and crepe-like on the other.
The waitress spooned the lamb dish in the center and brought us a basket with more of the spongy bread. The lamb was cubed and stewed with Jalapenos, onion, garlic and tomato. It was very fatty in taste but well balanced because of the spice. The handful of sliced greens heaped on the bread helped cut the grease and added to the variety of textures on the table. The stew soaked through the inJera very quickly and I had to double or triple it to keep my hands clean. The Dessert onsisted of baklava, which is a very sweet pastry typical in Middle Eastern and North African culture.
The pastry was flaky and filled with a layer of sweet nuts and syrup. It was the sharpest tasting baklava I’ve ever had. I don’t know if I’ll ever come across a meal as curious as Ethiopian again, but I hope I do. It was a welcome deviation from the typical cuisine in the area. The culture is lovely and welcoming and the food is delicious. I definitely recommend the food for the adventurous, for the curious and for lovers of spice. Ethiopian is an experience in and of itself.