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THE BEST: Ethiopian Food in NYC


megc
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I haven't been there in several months, but based on bi-annual visit for 6 or so years, it's certainly consistently at the top...

However, over those years, their menu has never, ever changed, and your pictures looked like they had some new dishes going on there.

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Interesting. I haven't found any of these to be notably better than Awash, but I understand that the Ethiopian dishes I like are Awash's specialties.

Honestly, I can't say that I notice a huge difference from Ethiopian place to Ethiopian place in the City. There was nothing about Queen of Sheba that would make me want to go to 46th and 10th rather than a few blocks away to Awash. But, then again, I'm sure I'd feel exactly the opposite if I lived around the corner from Queen of Sheba.

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FWIW, and taking nothing away from Marcus Samuelsson's knowledge and talent, it strikes me that he's only a little more Ethiopian than Mario Batali is Italian. Yes he was born in Ethiopia, but he was brought to Sweden at age 3 and raised there by adoptive parents. It's not like he was brought up in Ethiopia eating injera at his father's knee, and according to him he rarely ate Ethiopian food until he moved to New York.

This doesn't make his opinions non-relevant, of course, but does point out that he's hardly NYC's reigning expert on what does/doesn't make for a good Ethiopian restaurant. According to this article, Yeworkwoha Ephrem, the owner of Ghenet, is his "adviser on Ethiopian cuisine."

Here's an interesting quote from the article that I thought was relevant to Ethiopian food in general, and Awash in particular:

One thing immediately apparent after visiting most of New York's Ethiopian restaurants is the similarity of the menus. ''As with any third world country's food, it doesn't have tiers of sophistication,'' Mr. Samuelsson said. ''It doesn't matter if you're the richest or the poorest, you're going to eat the same food, except that maybe the quality of the meat changes.''

Eventually, though, you begin to notice subtle differences among the restaurants. Awash, a small but crowded restaurant on Amsterdam Avenue near 109th Street, excels at both vegetarian dishes and at kitfo, a raw beef delicacy invariably referred to as Ethiopian steak tartare.

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Is this the Ghenet on Mulberry Street? I did the Ethiopian coffee ceremony there with friends and we also had a light meal. In terms of decor and approach to the atmosphere it's a bit more Westernized than other Ethiopian places I've been in but not in terms of food. There used to be an Eritrean restaurant near Gramercy Park that was very Westernized both in ambiance and food - a number of trendy non-African dishes were on the menu, some of the injera bread was colored in bright colors like shrimp chips sometimes are, etc. It was also a bit pricey and I wasn't too impressed by the food.

That said - I enjoyed the food at Queen of Sheba more than I did at the Hell's Kitchen location of Meskerem or the food at Ghenet. The "Crispy Fish" was a particular stand-out and one I'd love to try again.

Have not visited Awash but have had Ethiopian food in Denver, DC and Philly in addition to my NY experiences. Queen of Sheba remains my favorite but that's based on a sampling of one visit about four years ago.

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[...]Here's an interesting quote from the article that I thought was relevant to Ethiopian food in general, and Awash in particular:
One thing immediately apparent after visiting most of New York's Ethiopian restaurants is the similarity of the menus. ''As with any third world country's food, it doesn't have tiers of sophistication,'' Mr. Samuelsson said. ''It doesn't matter if you're the richest or the poorest, you're going to eat the same food, except that maybe the quality of the meat changes.''[...]

I don't believe the quote would survive real scrutiny. No "third world" country's food has tiers of sophistication? None? But perhaps we wouldn't want this thread on Awash restaurant to be sidetracked by such a question.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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He's clearly talking about class-based distinctions in a national cuisine.

As a general rule, that's true for most countries of any sort, at least until the 20th century. France being the notable exception.

For example, in Italy, until the last 150 years or so, the difference between peasant food and that eaten by the aristocracy was in the cuts of meat used (or the prevalence of meat altogether). The fascinating array of offal in Roman cuisine comes from the fact that the Lazio region had two (usually separate) sets of aristocracy -- nobility and the Vatican -- with the result that "normal" cuts of meat were practically unavailable to everyone else. But otherwise, people ate the same dishes.

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I've tried most of the Ethiopian places in the city except Queen of Sheba (just haven't had the chance yet) because I really love the flavors, savory and spicy, less cream/buttery and more direct than Indian, but not as salty/soy-based as Asian. I actually think they're all fairly similar; none shines out as the ultimate best or worst. Ghenet is my least fave because it's more watered down to me and somewhat blander, but others may like it for the same reasons. It has the most chi-chi setting of the bunch. Awash I think has the most flavor kick/might be the most authentic, but also leaves my stomach unsettled at times as a result. It's still my fave though (both branches are similar). Meskerem is ok but seems a little blander and inconsistent at times. Ethiopian Restaurant on the UES is probably my other favorite, although again, a little blander than Awash. None of these places is as good though as Addis Red Sea in Boston. (And I hear DC places are even better although I've never been.) I also really like a semi-fusionized but still delicious Ethiopian/Eritrean place called Caffe Adulis which is in New Haven. They used to have a Manhattan branch but it closed (which someone else mentioned earlier in this thread.)

Edited by jeanki (log)
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So we went to Meskerem (46th and 10th) on Wed night. Was almost empty with pretty bad Ethiopian muzak-music. (is there good Ethiopian music? Must be). Obviously you don't come here for ambience but this place was downright depressing. The extremely indifferent service was a upsetting and the fact that they wouldn't give us a 4top for 2 when there were several (it was after 9 and they definitely weren't getting a rush). Whatever, we were there for the food and more so to compare it to Sheba inwhich we'd had several (excellent) meals.

So we shared the meat and veggie combo dinners. The meat included lamb/beef and veg stews; "Tibs Wat, Gomen Besaega, Yebeg Alecha, Miser Alecha and Miser Wat". The qlty of beef wasn't great.....a bit tough and fatty. The lamb was mostly bone. Unfortunate since what little there was was very good. The veg combo: "Miser Alech, Miser Wat, Shro Wat", (chickpeas, lentils, string beans and cabbage). The stews were overly pureed (making them difficult to grab) and seasoned with too much garlic. Really overwhelming. Also, the injera was cold (shouldn't be room temp?).

It wasn't horrible but Sheba blows it away. The only good thing about Meskerem is the BYO policy making for a really cheap meal.

That wasn't chicken

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