Not only does Zoma feature a cuisine that is new and exciting to many Clevelanders – and one which stands out even on the diverse restaurant row that is Lee Road.
By Laura DeMarco (clevelend.com) |
CLEVELAND, OH―”Ethnic” cuisine is changing in Cleveland, Ohio. Expanding. Growing.
Where once that term meant pierogi and schnitzel and pasta and maybe Chinese, today Cleveland ethnic eats are as diverse as the city.
Until recently, however, one ethnic cuisine was sorely underrepresented: Ethiopian. The wonderful Empress Taytu has impressed on St. Clair Avenue for more than two decades. But there was room for more Ethiopian flavor in town.
It’s not that Cleveland has a huge Ethiopian community – it doesn’t. But Ethiopian cuisine – a very vegetarian-friendly option – has been growing in popularity in America for the last several decades. So Zoma owners Zeleke Belete and his wife, Betty Kassa, decided to take a chance and open the area’s second Ethiopian restaurant on Lee Road in Cleveland Heights in December.
It was a leap of faith that has paid off for the couple that moved from Addis Ababa in 2004, with Clevelanders immediately gravitating to the exotic but cozy 49-seat eatery named after the village where Belete’s mother lived. Weekends are so busy now Belete takes reservations, and the charming space was crowded even at 5 p.m. on a recent weekday.
No wonder. Not only does Zoma feature a cuisine that is new and exciting to many Clevelanders – and one which stands out even on the diverse restaurant row that is Lee Road. With its simple, vegetarian and vegan heavy menu- inspired by the fact that Ethiopia’s Orthodox Christian community refrains from meat and dairy for much of the year – it’s a perfect fit for modern, health-oriented diners. With vegetables so prominent in their cooking, Ethiopians have perfected wonderful spice combinations to enhance their deceptively simple dishes. Not that Zoma is exclusively vegetarian, there are also several beef, chicken, lamb and fish meals on the menu for carnivores.
We sampled both vegetarian and meat dishes on a recent visit. The vegetarian dishes, most of which were also vegan, were so satisfying we would have been fine without the chicken – but it was fantastic, too.
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