Sheba

3 06 2012

I’ll make this quick since I didn’t take any pictures. But, since all vegetarian sampler platters look the same at Ethiopian restaurants, I’ll just show you a pretty picture of another one I’ve eaten before:

Vegetarian Sampler

Sheba is an Ethiopian restaurant, bar, and piano lounge on Fillmore, just around the corner from the Fillmore concert hall. I love Ethiopian food. There’s not a whole lot of it in the city, so I’ve been slowly but surely seeking it out. I’ve only tried one other place in the Avenues somewhere, and I didn’t love it. This one was better.

They have nightly jazz starting at 8, which I was not interested in, so we arrived at 6.30 and were out before the music started. But, if you’re into jazz, it’s a nice place to enjoy such things. The atmosphere was classy and dim, and the service was pretty good. All of this deviates from the “traditional” Ethiopian hole-in-the-wall places I’ve been to in the past, and they weren’t unwelcome changes.

The food was definitely good. Not the best I’ve had in the Bay Area, but I would certainly go back. It was a bit spicy for me (read: there was some minuscule amount of spice), but the dishes served in the sampler were all my favorites for sure (it was exactly like the picture above, taken at Enssaro in Oakland — perhaps the best Ethiopian I’ve yet had in the Bay). There’s a place rumored to be located in the Haight that is my next target. Me heart some Ethiopian foods.

Sheba Piano Lounge on Urbanspoon





Shashamane

5 08 2010
Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 3/5   ♦   Food Quality: 3/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited:  One   ♦   Will I Return?:  Happily
___________

Named after a town in Ethiopia, this Oakland restaurant at Broadway and 25th is one of the nicer Ethiopian venues I’ve been to. Shashamane is easy to miss from the front but has a clean, nice interior with hundreds of flags from around the world circling the rim of the large, open dining room and connected bar. I have to admit, these flags provide a lot of entertainment and trivia; I can identify far fewer world flags than I would have imagined.

shashamane restaurant

Bar area with world flags at Shashamane in Oakland.

tables

Seating area at Shashamane in Oakland.

Their menu seemed typical to me, though I really don’t know what most of the dishes are from place to place. And it doesn’t matter, all you need is the Combo (the Beatles were wrong, incidentally, about the Love thing). The Veggie Combo for me, or the Meat Combo if you’re the carnivorous type.

sambusas

Veggie sambusas from Shashamane in Oakland.

Friend #1 ordered some veggie sambusas to start and we shared a veggie combo for our main meal. Sambusas are like samosas at an Indian restaurant—miscellaneous spiced mush inside a crunchy, deep fried, flaky dough shell. You really can’t go wrong. I thought these were ok; for some reason I didn’t love the mix of lentils and spices inside, but they were still pretty good. My friend loved them.

ethiopian food

Veggie Combo at Shashamane in Oakland.

The combo was pretty standard and included all colors of mush, as expected. Nothing was terribly spicy on our plate, and the salad was good. The quantity was also good; we were nice and full at the end.

tibs

Tibs at Shashamane in Oakland.

Friend #2 ordered a tibs dish; spiced meat with some veggies. It’s a bit like Ethiopian stir fry but heavy on the meat. He wanted it extra spicy and was apparently satisfied with the side of flaming hot sauce provided. Despite his initial hesitation at Ethiopian cuisine (this was his first try), he appeared satisfied.

This place isn’t quite as cheap as some other Ethiopian places, but that’s probably because it’s a bit nicer. All the pages were present in my menu, for example, and there’s a price to pay for that. Still, it was priced well for the quantity of food we received and for how impossible it would be for me to make this at home (I find that to be a factor—Ex: when I pay $6 for a grilled cheese I don’t find it to be as great of value as when I pay $6 for Indian food).

I hope to see you again, Shashamane, though I hope no one ever asks me to pronounce your name out loud.

Shashamane on Urbanspoon





Cafe Rehoboth

22 06 2010
Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 3/5   ♦   Food Quality: 4/5   ♦   Value: 4/5
Times Visited:  One   ♦   Will I Return?:  Heck yes
___________

Cafe RehobothStill haven’t been to Ethiopian food yet?  You’ve gotta do it.  And even if you’ve previously enjoyed scooping up the soupy goodness with your injera, Cafe Rehoboth is highly recommended as a new place to try.

Located just near Japan Town in San Jose, Cafe Rehoboth, though mildly unpronounceable, is a great place for Ethiopian fare.  We’ve become somewhat of Ethiopian connoisseurs over the past few years and find that Rehoboth fits the bill for standard atmosphere and service in an Ethiopian restaurant, while perhaps exceeding expectations in terms of menu layout and choices.

Ethiopian restaurants are to be judged on a different scale than other restaurants.  There seems to be something about them that just does not add up to any “normal” restaurant we’re used to.  I won’t harp on the differences, since I’ve done so before, but let’s just summarize and say that the decor is often stark, the seating is often empty, and there is often no music playing in the background.  This can sometimes be awkward: sitting in a silent, empty room, munching on your slop.  Once you know what to expect, however, you can focus on the food rather than the oddities of the atmosphere.

Cafe Rehoboth

View upon entrance to Cafe Rehoboth

Cafe Rehoboth

Rear dining room at Cafe Rehoboth

Cafe Rehoboth

Front end of rear room inside Cafe Rehoboth

Cafe Rehoboth had the same general lack of customers and background music upon our arrival, but that may have been because we arrived late on a Wednesday evening.  The atmosphere was actually quite nice compared to some of the other places we’ve been to.  The menu here was pro—it looked professionally designed and printed, and was clear and extensive.  This is sometimes hard to find at Ethiopian restaurants that we’ve frequented in the past.  We were hence able to decide our culinary fate with ease.

menu

Menu page at Cafe Rehoboth

I hate to say it, but I have literally found almost no need for other items on Ethiopian menus than sampler plates.  Samplers allow you to experience a variety of the foods offered without committing to any one dish.  It’s the best idea ever and every Ethiopian restaurant seems to be on board with it.  Only glancing over the menu, our table of 7 ordered veggie combos for 5 of us and meat combos for the other 2.

Injera

Injera bread at Cafe Rehoboth

When you order a combo plate (or any dishes) at an Ethiopian restaurant you will undoubtedly receive your meal(s) on one gigantic plate to be shared among up to 4 people.  Again, if you expect this, it’s kinda fun.  Our meals arrived after a bit of a wait (I gave them a break about this—we did order one of everything on the menu in the combos) and were delicious.  Instead of attempting to describe the different flavors of goo in uneducated jargon, perhaps the following pictures of our food can speak instead.

Vegetarian Sampler

Vegetarian Sampler plate for four people at Cafe Rehoboth

Meat Combo

Meat Combo for three at Cafe Rehoboth

The food was well received by all and the staff was kind and friendly as usual (Ethiopian folks seem to be very nice people, at least the ones that staff restaurants in other countries).  I not only enjoyed Cafe Rehoboth, I’d happily return for more anytime we’re in San Jose.





Ghion Ethiopian Restaurant

5 03 2010
Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 3/5   ♦   Food Quality: 4/5   ♦   Value: 5/5
Times Visited:  Once   ♦   Will I Return?:  Yes, please
___________

Yes, Ethiopian food.  I think I made the same jokes before I tried it too.  Many people haven’t had Ethiopian food, and to them I often describe it as plops of mushy stuff with spices, sort of like Indian food, served on a giant flat pancake shaped piece of sourdough spongy bread.  Oh and by the way, you tear off pieces of the bread and scoop up the food with it to eat.  No forks.  So fun.

If you’ve never tried Ethiopian and you’re not a food prude, I’d highly recommend it.  It’s one of my favorites and was a weekly endeavor when we lived in Australia.  The food is delicious, the way you eat it is fun, and the whole thing is a different experience for us westerners.

The exterior of Ghion may be a bit forbidding, but don't let it stop you from going in!

I’ve been eating Ethiopian food only for about the last two years, and have in that time tried probably a dozen different places (mostly in Melbourne, Australia).  In my experience, most Ethiopian restaurants are the same in a very odd way.  And because Ghion fit the bill, I was both amused and impressed.  The very best Ethiopian places are dead empty when you arrive.  There is often no music playing, and no one in the facility, possibly not even a waiter. There may be a group of Ethiopian gentlemen speaking (assumingly) Ethiopian and not paying you a bit of mind.  The dining area may be scantily decorated with an appropriately African theme.

The seating area in Ghion restaurant.

When you receive the menus, it is likely that pages are missing from most of them.  I could hardly believe that we found yet another Ethiopian place where this is the case, but we did.  It’s ok though, you can assemble the information between the few of you who have arrived together to assist in understanding the full menu selection.  The waiter/owner/cook is friendly but has a heavy accent. Sometimes there are language communication difficulties, but he is polite and courteous so it’s not uncomfortable.

It doesn’t really matter anyway, because whatever comes out of the kitchen will be good; no matter if you ordered it or not.  Your only concern is to make sure you receive vegetarian food if you ordered that, and that part of the order never seems to get lost.

Our food plate at Ghion.

Up until this point, I have been describing Ghion and many other places I’ve been.  I should now discuss the food at Ghion, which was excellent.  The vegetarian combo we ordered (x2 to feed four people) was a standard combo that we’ve seen elsewhere also.  The brown lintel mush, the yellow cabbage and potato pile, the green lintel stuff, the stuff that appeared to be spinach but may have been another green, and the yellow goo that I’m not sure what it was.  De-lic-ious, even though I’m clearly not aware of the technical names or ingredients.  We also ordered an appetizer of some sort of cheese, which was also placed on the big plate (white, crumbly), and boyfriend’s favorite dish of tomato-soup-consistency goo that was really, really good.

Food plate close-up. Yum!!

All of this with a generous side of wheat injera to scoop it with, and we were stuffed in no time.  One of the other great things about Ethiopian food is that it’s typically pretty cheap.  $42 covered all four of us including two beers, and we were certainly full to the brim.  If you like Ethiopian, head down to Ghion to get your next fix, or, if you’ve never tried it, I’d say Ghion wouldn’t be a bad place to start.

Note:  Wait a minute, Angie, aren’t you in Japan right now?  How are you patronizing restaurants in the Bay when you’re far far away?  Touche, fair reader, good catch.  I did not come to Japan fully unprepared – I have a few drafts waiting in the wings of this blog so as not to drop the ball while I’m away!  Haha!  Would I starve you of food posts while I travel the globe?  Surely not.  Keep your eyes peeled, I will be posting again!








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