Tag Archives: Ethiopia

Zoma Ethiopian Cuisine in Cleveland Heights

It seems like every day, a new restaurant is opening in Cleveland, news we are always glad to hear. Recently, Cleveland added a second Ethiopian restaurant to its burgeoning dining scene, Zoma (2240 Lee Rd, Cleveland Heights, OH 44118), a place we have been dying to try for months. Zoma was opened in late 2016 by Ethiopian expats Zeleke Belete and his wife, Betty Kassa. Zoma is small, and fills up pretty quickly, so it is best to call ahead and get a reservation. We were lucky enough to barely squeeze in on Friday evening, sitting around a small traditional table, or mesob. The menu at Zoma is compact, but hits all of the Ethiopian classics, with nine meat dishes ($13.99-17.99) and six vegetarian dishes ($ 11.99-12.99). We were happy to see some of our favorite dishes were there, including spicy chicken stew (Doro Wot – $15.99), with berbere spices and onions; mild beef stew (Alicha Wot – $14.75) with garlic, ginger and turmeric.

The best way to try a little bit of everything at Zoma is to get a sampler. You can get a veggie sampler with either 4 or 5 items ($14.99 or 15.99) or a combination platter ($18.75) with spicy beef stew, mild beef stew and two vegetarian menu items. Since we were 3 people, we upped the ante and got the Zoma Special combo ($32.99), a combination of beef tibs, spicy beef stew, mild beef stew, spicy chicken stew, homemade cottage cheese and 5 vegetarian menu items. Our vegetarian selections were the split red lentils with berbere, split yellow peas with onions, chickpeas, green peas and carrots with tomatoes, and cabbage and potatoes with garlic and ginger curry. We started off our dinner with vegetarian sambusas ($3.5), the East African version of samosas, filled with chickpeas and accompanied by a super-spicy plum hot sauce.

As you can see from the photo above, the injera flatbread came out fully loaded with our selections. Using the extra injera on the side, we sopped up all of the stews. All of the dishes were delicious: the meat was tender, and all of the dishes were expertly spiced. Nothing was too spicy, so this would be a great place for newcomers to Ethiopian food. We especially liked the spicy beef tibs and the split yellow peas, and we loved being able to try all of Zoma’s offerings. The only downside is that you have to pay for each refill of injera ($2), the spongy flatbread that serves as a utensil. I guess that keeps us injera fiends in check. Zoma also has a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony on Sunday afternoons, and you could preview the Jebena (coffee pot) setup in the dining room. We can’t wait to go back for the coffee ceremony and another crucial injera fix.

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Pastry-Post Doc at the Olympics: Ethiopian Pasti

ethiopianFor the final country represented on the Olympic Refugee Team – Ethiopia – we decided to dig a little deeper into the county’s cuisine. Now we adore Ethiopian food, but we were wondering about traditional Ethiopian desserts (since we have never encountered any!). Turns out, we weren’t missing a hidden dessert culture – the whole concept of dessert is pretty much an imported one. However, with the influx of sugar into Ethiopia in the 20th century, desserts started cropping up. One of the most popular desserts now in Ethiopian is the pasti, a sweet, fried dough dessert influenced by Italian food, sold in small shops called Pasti Bet (pasti houses). Here is a simple video recipe for pasti from How to Cook Ethiopian, with the video in Amharic and English text below. Pasti is even popular enough to have an Ethiopian R&B song about it!

 

 

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Ethiopia: Abyssinia Restaurant

Abyssina Restaurant
5842 North Broadway
Chicago, IL

ethiopian

We swear by Ethiopian Diamond. The restaurant just next door to Abyssinia has, for years, been our go-to Ethiopian place in the city. Its ample portions and wonderful spices never disappointed, and their tasty and delightfully spongy injera converted even some of our injera-hating friends. But, on a whim with friend, we decided to try Abyssinia. And when the meal was finished, we looked across the table at each other, and M said it: “This may sound sacrilegious. But this place might be better than Ethiopian Diamond.”

AbyssinaFood

The menu at Ethiopian Diamond is slightly larger, but Abyssinia had all of the favorites as well as a few new other things to try. M went adventurous and had the gored gored, meat cubes, served rare and covered in spices. Health risks aside, raw meat has never tasted so good: a delectable and unique texture paired with a rich spice blend. Good as they were, the Ethiopian classic doro tibs stole the show: first-class chicken cuts, with sprigs of rosemary and green peppers, the flavors were much fuller and bolder than at Ethiopian Diamond, easily the best we’ve ever had. We also got stewed spinach, and a salad, which had better dressing than at Ethiopian Diamond. We finished off the meal with a full pot of Ethiopian coffee, which was excellent.

AbyssiniaTea

Overall, Abyssinia had slightly smaller portions (for the same price) than ED, and the injera was not as impressive (and at an Ethiopian place, it needs to be). But with that said, its flavors were more developed, bolder, and deeper than at ED, and when push comes to shove, we may have a new go-to Ethiopian place in Chicago.

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So Long Africa Harambee…

…Hello Ethiopian Diamond II. When we visited Africa Harambee over the summer it seemed like it was on death’s door, with nearly zero patronage. While we are sad to see it go, we are happy to see another African Restaurant fill the void – Ethiopian Diamond, who had an ownership interest in Africa Harambee as well. According to Time Out, the menu is similar to the original Ethiopian Diamond location, and while it has been open for a little while, we haven’t ventured to the new location yet at 7537 N. Clark St.

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Ethiopia: Addis Abeba Restaurant in Evanston [closed]

Addis Abeba [closed]
1322 Chicago Ave
Evanston, IL

A few weeks ago, I headed out on a rainy night for a group dinner at Ethiopian Diamond. I think perhaps Ethiopian food is tailor-made for group dinners, since it is designed to share! The restaurant itself was unfortunately barren except for our big table, owning to the freezing-rain downpour. As our group was evenly split between vegetarians and omnivores, we decided to order a range of meat and non-meat dishes to share. Like most Ethiopian restaurants, the food is served communally on a large, round mesob platter on a large piece of thin injera bread. ethiocoffee

On the vegetarian plate we selected a variety of chickpea-based dishes. We ordered Yeater Kik Wot ($10.25)  – yellow split peas sauteed with garlic, cloves and cinnamon; Mitin Shiro ($10.25) Roasted, chick peas in cinnamon-clove spiced butter with cinnamon and cloves; and Azifa ($8.50) a cold dish of lentils, tomatoes and jalapeno peppers. In truth, being seated in front of the veg platter, and being an omnivore myself, all of the chickpea fare started to blend together. It was good, but not distinctive. Maybe not so many beans next time.

On the meat-eater platter we ordered Chicken Shish Kebabs ($14.75) with a spicy yogurt sauce; Yebeg alitcha ($14.75) a spicy lamb dish with onions, garlic and turmeric; Minchet abish ($14.00) ground beef served with a berbere sauce, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and garlic. The chicken kebabs were nice and spicy, however the pieces were much too big to grab daintily with the injera. Had to use the hands here. The Yebeg Alitcha was deliciously garlic and tender. However, the combination of sweet and savory (ground beef and cinnamon) was bit too much for me, where the minchet abish was concerned.

To finish of the meal we shared a pot of flavorful Ethiopian coffee ($2.50) served in a traditional style. This coffee is potent, and accordingly served in tiny cups, but, with impending research papers in mind, we kept the refills coming. Though Ethiopian Diamond is definitely still our Chicago favorite, AA is pretty good for an Ethio fix in Evanston, especially if you bring a few friends along.

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Our favorite Ethiopian restaurant in Chicago: Ethiopian Diamond

Ethiopian Diamond
6120 N Broadway
Chicago, IL 60660

There are certain ways you can tell if a restaurant specializing in foreign cuisine is any good. Sure, you can read Zagat reviews all you want, but we’ve found even that to be untrustworthy on more than one occasion. We knew Ethiopian Diamond was going to be good when we walked in we saw and saw entire table of Ethiopians eating dinner and speaking amharic. We were not disappointed. Hands down, Ethiopian Diamond is the best African place we’ve found in Chicago, and it’s definitely on par with our other best African food experience – Au Village in Paris.

Zagat had given Ethiopian Diamond high marks for food (a 24) but very low for both service and décor. We have our own standards, but found them wrong on both counts. Ethiopian Diamond is one large room, sparsely decorated with large canvas paintings and small reminders of Ethiopian culture. Our aforementioned table featured four vertical-backed chairs modeled after Ethiopian obelisks, arranged around at a basket table, or mesob. Maybe we’ve just never been the type to critique the way a restaurant looks, but we’ve always found it comforting when a place spends more time and effort on the food then on the interior design. It was just right for us.

With that, we dived into the menu. It had a wide variety of appetizers and stews, meaning we had tons of choices. This wasn’t our first time around the East African block, so we quickly decided on Doro Tibs Watt (chicken breast meat cubes marinated in lemon juice and ginger, cooked in spicy sauce) and Doro Tibs Alicha (chicken breast cubes in a sauce of onions, garlic, and ginger). The menu initially seemed overpriced ($13 a dish) until we received our food. A huge plate arrived, meant to be shared, complete with both our orders, both hot and spicy chickpeas, a cup of hot sauce, a salad, and eight pieces of injera which double-served as both our carbs and our utensils.

The two dishes provided a great contrast: the Doro Watt had a sharp flavor kick, while the Alicha was much more subtle but still delicious. The chicken was perfectly done. The smoky, peppery sauce, which came in a little cup added a kick to any option. However, we kept raving about the injera, the bread was delicate and spongy, with a slight sourdough kick. The seemingly endless bread supply only urged us to eat more, even far after we knew our stomachs were full. After we finished eating, the $26 bill seemed like a complete steal.

If we had any complaint about the service, it was that they never refilled our water cups – and to combat the spicy chickpeas, we definitely needed them. Otherwise they were perfectly efficient and gracious. Ethiopian Diamond surpassed all of our expectations, so if we ever find ourselves around Granville and Broadway again and even mildly hungry, we will definitely be back (maybe to try some coffee and desserts).

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