Lunch at Awash Ethiopian restaurant in Brooklyn, New York | I just want to eat!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Lunch at Awash Ethiopian restaurant in Brooklyn, New York

image of Awash Ethiopian restaurant in Brooklyn, New York

I was recently invited to the Brooklyn location of Awash, a restaurant serving Ethiopian cuisine. In fact, Awash has three locations: the original one on Amsterdam that opened in 1994, one in the East Village, that opened in 2004 and the latest one in Brooklyn, more precisely in Cobble Hill, that opened in May 2012. We spoke a bit with Boge, who, with her sister, owns the place and gave us some insight about the restaurants and the menu.

The restaurant has a good size, with a bar on the left:
image of Awash Ethiopian restaurant in Brooklyn, New York

On the right, next to the window, you can decide to eat in these woven baskets, perfect if you would like to share your meal and enjoy a totally different experience.
image of Awash Ethiopian restaurant in Brooklyn, New York

Then, the dining room, with its warm red color, paintings and photos.
image of Awash Ethiopian restaurant in Brooklyn, New York

Boge explain to us that Awash is one of the main rivers in Ethiopia and that it is a reminder of their childhood. Their menu consists of family recipes that is always great as it passes along from generation to generation, with sometimes this little secret that makes a dish unique. I tend to think that Indian and Ethiopian cuisines have few similarities, from the spices, to the use of lentils that reminds me of dal. They use so many spices and condiments, the most common being: ginger, garlic, turmeric, cloves, cinnamon...
image of spices at Awash Ethiopian restaurant in Brooklyn, New York

In fact, Boge told us that they purchase their spices in Indian grocery stores. Indian food is quite popular in New York, with lots of restaurants and even the whole area of Murray Hill that is often called Curry Hill, but Ethiopian is not. There are for sure few restaurants: Awash, Meske or Queen of Shebah to name a few, but it is very limited compared to Washington DC for instance. On top of that, the only chef of Ethiopian decent is Marcus Samuelson who showcases more traditional American cuisine (Red Rooster) or his "adopted roots" from Sweden with Aquavit. If he were to open an Ethiopian restaurant in New York, it could make people want to try this mysterious cuisine.
    
When eating in an Ethiopian restaurant, you can either ask for a knife and fork, or simply use the bread, called Injera, that is made with a flour called Teff. 
image of Injera bread at Awash Ethiopian restaurant in Brooklyn, New York

It is an interesting bread, that looks like a crepe and has the consistency of a sponge!
image of Injera bread at Awash Ethiopian restaurant in Brooklyn, New York

I admit that I would not eat it alone, but with food, it is pretty good. You take a piece of it and scoop some food with it.
image of Injera bread at Awash Ethiopian restaurant in Brooklyn, New York

Et voila!

So it was time for us to start our discovery of Awash! First were the appetizers.

Sambusa:


image of sambusa at Awash Ethiopian restaurant in Brooklyn, New York

At the beginning, I was wondering if it was like a samosa, but I quickly saw (or tasted) that it was not! It was a pastry shell made of phyllo, that is filled with spiced vegetables (collard greens - not bitter-, potatoes and carrots)  and fried. It was served with a vegetable sauce.
image of sauce for sambusa at Awash Ethiopian restaurant in Brooklyn, New York

I liked it with and without the sauce. The shell was crispy and the inside, although spicy, was delicious. My mouth started to be on fire, but I could not stop eating it...

The second appetizer was Mushroom tibs:
image of mushroom tibs at Awash Ethiopian restaurant in Brooklyn, New York

The presentation was really colorful and these mushrooms fantastic: fresh with a nice sautéed taste, they were smothered in a berbere sauce. They were served with onions, bell peppers and tomatoes. There was definitely a kick in this dish, but overall, it was good.

Then was the main dish, or shall I say dishes!
image of combination plate at Awash Ethiopian restaurant in Brooklyn, New York

It was a combination platter that we shared with Jodi, made mainly of vegetarian dishes sitting on an injera bread! This presentation was beautiful with all the colors! So, here is what we got:

Special tibs (in the center): beef cubes sautéed with onions, garlic, ginger, jalapeños and awaze (paste of hot peppers). It is one of their signature dishes.
image of special tibs at Awash Ethiopian restaurant in Brooklyn, New York

It had this vibrant red color coming from the sauce that fortunately was not spicy (except of course when eating a jalapeños...) but was very flavorful. The beef, cut in small cubes, was tender and completely smothered by that sauce! 

Brown whole lentils (off menu):
image of brown whole lentils at Awash Ethiopian restaurant in Brooklyn, New York

Yemisir Kik Wak or split red lentils cooked in berbere sauce:
image of Yemisir Kik Wak at Awash Ethiopian restaurant in Brooklyn, New York

Yater Kik Alicha or yellow split peas cooked and seasoned with onions, peppers and herbs:
image of Yater Kik Alicha at Awash Ethiopian restaurant in Brooklyn, New York

These last two reminded me of the Indian dal in a way! There were my favorites, each of them having a different taste, more pronounced in the Yemisir Kik Wat because of the berbere sauce. 

The next dish was Shiro: ground, mildly spiced chick peas cooked with chopped onions and tomatoes. 
image of Shiro at Awash Ethiopian restaurant in Brooklyn, New York

It was like a thick paste packed in spices. Good dish too.

There was also Gomen, or collard greens cooked with onions, garlic and green peppers:
image of Gomen at Awash Ethiopian restaurant in Brooklyn, New York

I do not like collard greens, so I cannot really comment on that dish, that I tried anyway...

Key Sir Alicha or red beets, carrots and potatoes:

The color given by the beets was fantastic! All the veggies were fully cooked and had a bit of sweetness.

String beans and carrots cooked and seasoned in a spicy garlic sauce:
image of string beans and carrots at Awash Ethiopian restaurant in Brooklyn, New York

Nice dish, but I have a doubt about how spicy it was as some jalapeños of the special tibs overflowed a bit in that dish...

Some salad:
image of salad at Awash Ethiopian restaurant in Brooklyn, New York

It was a good addition to attenuate any fire that some of the dishes may have created!

Shimbera assa that are chickpea balls (off menu):
image of Shimbera assa at Awash Ethiopian restaurant in Brooklyn, New York

You could think of them as denser version of falafel. I liked it, especially the sauce that I guess is the berbere sauce.

Butcha, (off menu), made with chickpea:
image of Butcha at Awash Ethiopian restaurant in Brooklyn, New York

This was interesting because it looked like scrambled eggs, the color probably coming from the use of turmeric. It was ok for me: I preferred more the dishes with sauce.

I ate my meal with some Ethiopian beer called Meta:
image of Meta Beer at Awash Ethiopian restaurant in Brooklyn, New York

It had a sweet taste that was perfect whenever the spiciness started to build up in the back of my throat, although I admit that most of the dishes were not spicy, that I truly appreciated (if you like spicy, I am sure you can ask them to add spices).

It was a nice lunch and a great discovery of Ethiopian cuisine. Similar to my past experiences in Ethiopian restaurants, I really enjoyed the vegetarian dishes and if you are non-vegetarian, try the special tibs: it was awesome!

Enjoy (I did)! 

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Please note that, in accordance with the FTC guidelines, I must disclose that I was contacted directly by the restaurant or a PR and that the meal was complimentary. However, the opinions expressed in my blog are 100% my own! 

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