Ethiopian + frozen yogurt = deliciousness
Yesterday began my new regime of investing part of my income (aka babysitting and allowance) into cheap eats. I decided that I should begin with Ethiopian food, since it’s one of the few cuisines that I’ve never ever tried. Last night I went out with my friends Aoife and Michael, who I don’t actually know that well, so we had a really good time. Sorry that the pictures are strange… they have an unearthly blue tinge and I’m not sure why!
The restaurant I picked was called Mama Desta’s Red Sea Restaurant. It wasn’t the best Ethiopian place, but all of those are too far north for us, and this was on Belmont. I was hoping Aoife and I would have big appetites because she had had just had a cross country meet and I had just had a swim meet (4 events, PRed on everything! 🙂 ). The thing was, I got back so late from the meet that I ate lunch late, fell asleep, and woke up shortly before I had to leave. We ended up wandering around Belmont a bit before eating. Everybody used to think Belmont was so cool, and it is, but I still think parts of it are kind of poser and overpriced. People are funny to watch there, though; one guy came up to us and high fived us (Michael thought it had to do with the Cubs game but I thought he was just really weird) and we also saw a bunch of people blowing bubbles for no apparent reason. We checked out all the crazy drag queen shoes in the Alley:
Then we headed over to the restaurant, which wasn’t as run-down as all the Yelp reviews made it sound. It was actually pretty cosy: dark, with maps of Africa and folk art (no idea if authentic or not) on the walls.
It took us a long time to decide what to order, but we decided to order a bunch of food and share:
We ended up ordering every single vegetable on the menu, since there was a vegetarian combo of four and the meat combo they got came with two (there were only six):
Yemisir wat– green lentils,
Metin Shuro Wat– split peas
Gomen– “green vegetable” (which I figured was spinach, since the word is the same in a lot of other languages)
Kantisha Tibs– white mushrooms with berbere sauce
D’nitch– potatoes and broccoli
We also ordered:
Yasa Tibs– fish with onions and green peppers, and Michael and Aoife split the Doro Alitcha– chicken in clarified butter– and the Zilzil Wat, a beef dish.
We also ordered rice, even though everything was served with injera, the spongy Ethiopian bread made from teff flour.
The wait was pretty long, but we had a good time discussing everything food related and how we should make this a regular thing.
We thought we had ordered a lot of food, but the portions seemed pretty small (at least for our appetites): everything was served together on a giant platter, with a piece of injera spread out underneath to soak up all the juices. The only problem was that the meat and vegetables were so close to each other that it was a bit hard to avoid touching/ accidentally eating the meat– I had to be really careful. Also, we definitely didn’t get all the vegetables we asked for– there was no okra at all, and we didn’t even realize that the mushrooms had come until we unearth a miniscule mushroom slice under a giant pile of cabbage.
My favorite was the injera that we were also served on separate plates– I knew it was spongy, but I had no idea to what extent! It was flat, but soft and porous at the same time– the taste was tart, like sourdough, only with a completely different texture. We ate with our hands, scooping up the various piles of food with pieces of injera. The rice was good, but we didn’t finish it (I think it was so good because I have a sneaking suspicion they used chicken stock).
My favorite vegetarian dishes were the spinach (which had a lot of garlic and even reminded me of my dad’s stir-fried spinach), the split peas (cooked into a creamy yellow puree, like a dal), the lentils (which held their shape and tasted of cumin and spices).
The fish was decent if not slightly generic tasting. Everything turned out to be pretty cheap, although they still didn’t bring us everything we ordered– it ended up cosing 42.80 something including tax.
This was a good place to get an introduction to Ethiopian food, but I knew what people meant when they said there were better places out there– there always are, of course.
For some reason, we still didn’t feel 100% satisfied, so we decided to set out on a dessert, preferable of the frozen yogurt variety, quest. We were wandering and thinking we were never going to find anything when strangely enough, a woman passed us eating something ice cream-like. I really have gotten more outgoing– I asked her where she got it and apologized for the weird question. She said, “Oh, it’s not weird at all! Other people have asked me before. It’s right up there and it’s called Yo Berry.”
I immediately got excited because I had heard of it before in Time Out’s frozen yogurt review. According to Aoife, the layout was exactly like Red Mango, which is a Korean chain that has a branch in Evanston, and according to Michael, it was a lot like Pinkberry. They didn’t have any flavors of frozen yogurt– just plain, and it was nonfat. You could pick toppings ranging from unhealthy (sprinkles, chocolate sauce, oreos) to wholesome (fresh fruit). Michael and Aoife shared one with mango, strawberry and coconut, and I was a pig (well, not really… I still got a small one) and got one with mango, strawberry and pineapple.
The yogurt was great, because I’ve never had frozen yogurt that wasn’t either vanilla, chocolate or some other flavor. It was creamy like soft serve ice cream on top, but for some reason got harder towards the bottom of the cup. It wasn’t too sweet at all, and had that tang that really was as though you were eating Greek yogurt. The acidity of the fruit made my tongue sting a little, but it was perfectly refreshing after all the spicy (not hot, but lots of spicy) Ethiopian food.
We have to do that again sometime!