Zoma Ethiopian Restaurant, given its home in an aging strip on restaurant row in Cleveland Heights (in Cleveland, Ohio) could be cozier.

By Douglas Trattner (Cleveland Scene) |

Food cravings can be intense, debilitating even. Once you get that sushi fixation, for example, it’s not going away until you demolish a platter of tuna, yellowtail, salmon roe and uni. Same goes for fried chicken, pho, barbecue brisket and spicy Szechuan shrimp. Well, in my case anyway.

Here’s one that I never thought would enter the repertoire: Ethiopian food.

Most of us arrive at restaurants with suitcases full of expectations, but when it comes to Ethiopian, those bags are often completely empty, save for a few pitiless jokes. Like many adventurous diners, I’ve sampled the cuisine during a teenage trip to Washington, D.C. and right here at home at the lovely Empress Taytu, which opened a staggering 25 years ago.

ALSO READ: Zoma Ethiopian Restaurant Opens in Cleveland Heights, Ohio

But after reviewing that local eatery more than a decade ago, I have yet to return, which says more about my job than the job they do at that fine eatery. It took Zoma Ethiopian Restaurant, a new restaurant in my own backyard, to awaken an obsession I didn’t realize existed. This is the kind of food that worms its way inside your soul. A cuisine that has no peers.

It’s easy to make fun of a place that employs no silverware, but that practice really gets to the heart of what makes Ethiopian food so fun, social and indelible. Diners eat with their hands (hand, actually; the right one), pinching off pieces of flatbread to scoop up small bites of food.

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