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
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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.





A Slice of New York (Pizza)

12 04 2010
Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: N/A   ♦   Food Quality: 4/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited:  Once   ♦   Will I Return?:  Sure
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The front of A Slice of New York Pizza in San Jose.Ok, how many pizza shops are called New York Pizza?  Seriously, it took me 5 minutes to find this one on Google because even typing “New York Pizza San Jose” into the search comes up with more hits than and oldies radio station.  I realize that many restaurants sell New York style pizza.  Use. A. Different. Name.

I suppose I should apologize to A Slice of NY Pizza for that rant, they deserved it no more than the hordes of other pizza places of the same name.  One of which, mind you, I’ve already reviewed.  But these two are not related, thankfully, despite a flash of panic when we arrived to pick up this latest pie.  Two of our friends who live in San Jose recommended (read: demanded) that we try this pizza place.  And unlike all the other “New York Pizza”s out there, this one is actually called A Slice of New York Pizza, though the distinguishing forewords are in such tiny print on their sign that no one but the hummingbirds are aware of it*.

Apparently this place is sort of legendary.  My friend tells me that lunch is a mob scene during the week and there’s often a line down the sidewalk for a slice.  We were fortunate enough to order take away early on a Saturday evening and avoid that nonsense, but the people speak loud and clear: they love this place.  The company’s site backs it up too – under the general information on the site they list a heaping handful of awards they’ve received.

Pizza slices and pizza makers inside A Slice of New York Pizza in San Jose.

My impressions?  First: the facility is small, there’s virtually no place to eat there (some stools inside and minimal patio seating outside when it’s not rainy/windy), and they don’t deliver.  The shop is not fancy; it’s a run-of-the-mill pizza place smooshed into an old strip mall with junk stapled all over the walls, and a small flock of people scurrying around at light speeds behind the counter.  Nothing special here.  Second: the pizza didn’t look great, I’ll be honest.  The toppings looked a little sparse (too much sauce showing through the cheese upon first glance), the crust looked a little limp, and the pizza box wasn’t even personalized (come on guys, show us your big shots, don’t just tell us!).  Not that any of these thing really matter, necessarily, after you’ve had a bite, but still, the lead up was throwing me off a bit.  Third: It’s not cheap.  Granted, the pizzas are large, but you pay for the hype and, hopefully, the quality, which always makes me wonder which is driving the price up more.

Generic pizza box from A Slice of New York Pizza, San Jose.

When we finally sat down to eat our dinner, I found that I enjoyed it a lot.  We ordered two larges (18-inchers, a good size), one with mushrooms, basil, and garlic, and the other with pesto and cheese.  When we ordered the pesto and cheese one, I think they took that to mean extra cheese (which we didn’t really mean, but I see the cause for confusion), which turned out to be a fabulous choice.  I love that phrase – “extra cheese”.  That’s basically how much cheese I always want.  Never normal cheese, standard cheese, or just plain cheese.  Extra cheese for me please, I love cheese.

Pesto Pizza

Pesto and cheese pizza from A Slice of New York Pizza in San Jose.

I think I’ve made my point on cheese.  The pesto was good, and I was happy to see that they used it as a topping over the cheese rather than as the sauce.  Bread, tomato sauce, cheese, more cheese, pesto.  It was a good combination.  The pesto didn’t knock my socks off, but it was enjoyable.  The other pizza may have been my favorite of the two, however, with the thinly sliced mushrooms, sprinkling of fresh basil, and diced garlic cloves.  I tend to be a toppings glutton, so I could have gone for a denser gathering of mushrooms and garlic (and, as you might guess, cheese), but I think they did a nice job constructing our pizza.  They tasted good; I would happily order them again.

Mushroom, Garlic, Basil Pizza

Mushroom, Basil, and Garlic pizza from A Slice of New York Pizza in San Jose.

Plus, I like their website.  Not because it’s terribly fancy, but because they include a link to their menu, they ask for feedback, they support charities (toward the bottom of the page), and they have a three-page long FAQ PDF available to answer all your frequently asked pizza-related questions.  And since I did want to know why they don’t have a medium size pizza, this was helpful to me.  I just like a company that is into what they do and puts effort into what they show to their customers.  Good info, guys.  Also, they include tax in all their prices which is, like, one of my favorite things ever that I think should be mandated by law in America like all the other civilized countries in the world.  I guess it’s just sort of a rant-y evening, isn’t it?

*Follow up note: The owner of the restaurant subsequently informed me that the title of the restaurant is actually “A Slice of New York”, they don’t use the word Pizza in their technical business name, though it is on the sign to let you know that’s what they sell.  This post was written prior to that knowledge and I don’t want to change it since this knowledge was found out afterward.  The title of this post was changed, however, to show the word “Pizza” in parens, and this note was added the day after the original post to appease said business owner.

A Slice of New York on Urbanspoon





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
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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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