Eritrean and Ethiopian Cafe opened about a month ago with a menu of traditional food from those countries on the Horn of Africa.

By Scott Cherry |

When Yonas Abraham lost his job as an engineer in the oil business four months ago, he and his family came up with a plan to move forward.

The family included wife, Feven, her parents, Medina Bideu and Saleh Aberra, and Yonas’ brother, Matsala, all natives of the east African country of Eritrea.

“I probably will go back to engineering some day, but I wasn’t interested in accepting welfare because I didn’t have a job,” Yonas Abraham said. “I believe in working hard and making my own money.”

Though Saleh Aberra has a degree in chemistry from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia (he returned to Eritrea to be project manager in a Red Sea fishing operation for many years), and Yonas has an electrical engineering degree from Wichita State University, they turned to the kitchen talents of Feven and Medina to start a new business.

Eritrean and Ethiopian Cafe opened about a month ago with a menu of traditional food from those countries on the Horn of Africa.

“We thought people know Ethiopia better than Eritrea, so we put both in the name,” Abraham said. “The cultures and food are very much the same.”

The first thing that strikes one when entering the new 10-table restaurant is the inviting aromas of curries, herbs and spices coming from the kitchen.

Aberra explained to us that Eritrea has a long coastline on the Red Sea and a stretch of lowlands leading to mountainous highlands. The menu, he said, reflects mostly highlands cuisine with beef, chicken, lamb and vegetables.

We ordered an appetizer of sambusa ($6.50), triangle-shaped baked pastry shells. Three were filled with lentils, onions and jalapeno peppers, and three with chicken, onions and jalapenos. They came with an American barbecue sauce for dipping, which was oddly appealing with this dish.

For our entrees we ordered zizil tibs ($12.99) and lamb tibs ($15).

Most entrees, including ours, start with a layer of injera, a large, round flatbread that is relatively smooth on the bottom and porous on the top. It is made with teff, a gluten-free flour, and has a mildly sour taste due to fermentation in the dough-making process.

Food items are placed on top of the bread, which is torn off as needed and used as a scoop to pick up the food. It works as a utensil and as part of the meal at the same time.

When our plates arrived, they were fully covered with a piece of injera, which, according to my eyeball measurement, was about 15 inches in diameter.

The zizil tibs featured a bowl filled with long strips of rib-eye steak that had been cooked with garlic, black pepper, onions, green chilies and rosemary. A few onions and a sprig of rosemary showed up in the bowl. The meat was a little chewy but had a pleasing flavor.

The pieces of lamb were more tender and juicier than the beef and also had a stronger flavor of rosemary. The bowl had bits of tomato and onion, plus a sprig of rosemary, with the lamb.

Both entrees came with a side salad of fresh tomatoes and lettuce bathed in a vinaigrette and placed directly on the injera.

Eritrea & Ethiopian Cafe offers a variety of other dishes, including a whole section of vegetarian plates. We were told that dishes that include berberé sauce can be spicy hot.

A glass display case held a variety of pastries, most featuring sweet fillings, we were told.

We had a cappuccino ($2.90) and a latte ($2.90) made with Ethiopian coffee beans, and both were tasty.

The soft beige walls of the restaurant are simply decorated with beautiful Ethiopian posters and a landscape painting. The painting is not of Eritrea, Aberra said, but it looks like an Eritrean countryside.

The restaurant is located in space that formerly held a nail shop and everything — floors, kitchen, bathrooms — is shiny and new.

In addition to Wichita State, Abraham also attended Rhema Bible College and leads the Philadelphia Evangelical Church of Eritrea in Tulsa.

“We’ve lived in Wichita and Dallas, but the past eight years we have lived in Tulsa,” Abraham said. “We didn’t want to move when I got laid off. My wife and I wanted to stay in Tulsa.”

Source: Tulsa World
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See also:

Ethiopian Love: Serving Ethiopian Dish to Honolulu

Teff Eritrean and Ethiopian Restaurant Opens in Stamford

Eritrean and Ethiopian Cafe Opens in Southern Tulsa, Oklahoma

Restaurant Review: Spice up Diet with Excellent Table Ethiopian Cuisine


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