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Posts Tagged ‘sambusa’

Last Friday night we checked out another Ethiopian joint with a couple of friends. This time we went to Abyssinia, which funny enough, is literally next door to Ras Dashen. While they both serve typical Ethiopian dishes they could not be more different in atmosphere.

Ras Dashen has live music on Friday nights. You can hear live music in Abyssinia, but it isn’t being played there. It’s the music from Ras Dashen! Abyssinia is a very cozy ma and pa type of restaurant while Ras Dashen is a little more lively and urban hip. I can’t really say which atmosphere I prefer because they both have their charms.

On to the food. The main difference is that Abyssinia doesn’t offer appetizers, salads, or soups. They basically just serve breakfast and lunch/dinner entrees. That was a little disappointing because I wanted to compare Sambusas with Ras Dashen. Oh well, what can you do? 

True to Ethiopian style everything was served family style on top of Injera. We ordered the Doro Wat, Miser Wat, Derek Yebeg, and a ground beef special that’s on their physical menu but not their digital menu from their website. They actually gave us two portions of the ground beef. The sides were some yellow lentils and a few little salads. Extra Injera on the side of course.

The food took about 20 minutes or so to come out. That was fine with us as everything was being freshly prepared. Not to mention the delicious Ethiopian beer we were drinking, that tided us over for a bit. Abraham, the owner, came out and gave us some collard greens, goat cheese (tasted much like feta), and some warm beets because of the wait. Super nice guy, he has a true heart of hospitality. If my grandma was an Ethiopian man she’d be him.

Anyway, the food was awesome! Everything was friggin fantastic. The Miser Wat may very well be the best pile of lentils I’ve ever passed through my tracts. I think I liked the Doro Wat a little better at Ras Dashen, but everything else was better here. Not by much mind you, as I’d go back to either place over and over again. The only real criticism I can give about Abyssinia’s food is that the lamb chunks in our Derek Yebeg were a little dry and not real tender. I think they just cut the pieces a little too small. It did have a wonderful flavor though.

There were also plenty of leftovers as Ethiopian food is much more filling than it looks. We split the leftovers with our friends and had plenty for lunch the next day. I’m sure it was the same for them. So we basically got two meals each at extremely reasonable prices.

It’s hard to say which is the best Ethiopian in Chicago. If you want live music head to Ras Dashen. If you only want to hear the bass from the live music head to Abyssinia. Otherwise you can’t go wrong with either.

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After years of wanting to head up to the far north side of Chicago for some Ethiopian food, I finally got off my ass and checked out Ras Dashen the other night. All I have to say to myself is, “What the hell took me so long?”

I had to start with some Ethiopian coffee, the mother of all beans. They serve fair-trade organic, nice and smooth cup.

For an appetizer Yuki and I ordered some Spinach Sambusas. Lightly fried pastries filled with spinach and dipped into a spiced salsa. Very tasty, not too heavy. Think of them as Ethiopian empanadas or samosas.

Since our friends ordered the Doro Wat (chicken and egg in berbere, Ethiopia’s national dish) we had to get something different. Although, it wasn’t that different at all. We got Yebeg Wat (lamb in berbere) and Doro Alicha (chicken and egg in onions, garlic, ginger, and green peppers). We ordered the Diblik Atkilt and Misser Wat for our sides, our friends got the Misser Salata, I think. You can check out their website for descriptions of the sides. All served on top of Injera with extra on the side.

Those of you not familiar with Ethiopian cuisine, you don’t eat with utensils. The food gets dumped right on the Injera allowing the bread to soak up the sauces and juices. You rip off pieces of the Injera, using it to grab you rip pieces of meat off the bones or piles of lentils, and chow down. It’s absolutely delicious as well as being a fun, communal way to eat.

Berbere is Ethiopia’s most famous sauce. It’s a red pepper sauce with spices like ginger, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, fenugreek seeds, paprika, onion, and garlic. It’s actually very similar to Indian spices, but it’s definately distinct.

Back to the meal itself, we ordered the rice pudding for dessert. It was quite nice, very mild. There was a date in the middle.

Our friends got Ras Dashen’s famous bread pudding. It’s made with varius nuts, raisins, and tons of flax seeds. It was definitely a winner in my book.

Half-way through our meal a little jazz quartet started to play. They were pretty good. Saxaphone, guitar, bass, and bongos. It wasn’t too loud so conversation was never difficult.

I guess the one disclaimer I have is what I was warned about. Once you have Ethiopian food, no matter how strong-willed you are, you will start to crave it. It was extremely reasonably priced as well for the quality and amount of food served. I have to check out a few other places before I decide just how good Ras Dashen really is, but I will say this, I would definitely go back!

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