The winter storm we had was not going to keep me from the warmer climes of my chosen Ethiopian restaurant in Charlotte. It did add a bit of adventure when I got to the Red Sea Restaurant and Bar and the parking lot was masquerading as an ice rink. There were two cars in the lot and two people on the sidewalk chiseling at the ice with inadequate shovels but loads of enthusiasm.
One of the shovel wielders was the waiter of the restaurant and the only person I saw other than the Ethiopian cab driver who was lunching there as well. That the cabby was eating there gave me hope the food would be close to what you might expect from Ethiopia. The walls had some African art on the walls and plenty of pictures of what I would assume is Ethiopia. The bar of “and Bar” fame had maybe 4 stools and looked like the façade from a tiki bar in some tourist resort.
The menu was interesting with vegetarian and meat options. I went with the Ye Beg Tebs, which was cubed lamb cooked with peppers, onions and spices. As seen in the photo below it came with a salad, a cabbage & carrot dish and some chopped collards all atop a circle of injera bread. I got a glass of honey wine to try as well.
If you haven’t experienced Ethiopian before the way you are supposed to eat it is to tear a piece of the injera and pick up your food with it. In addition in some cultures you only eat with one hand, typically the right as the left is considered unclean. Judging by the cabby in the corner that held true here as well; right hand food, left hand phone. I really didn’t get the technique of tearing and grabbing / scooping the food but the fork stayed untouched and I managed to eat until I was full. I think being just about the only person in the place made it easier dive in and not be self-conscious of eating with my hand and the inevitable messiness.
As for the food the salad lettuce and tomatoes with a drizzle of oil and vinegar. The lamb was chewy but flavorful. I asked for it medium heat since you never know what maximum is at a place and I don’t enjoy having so much spice my tongue gets sensitive enough to distinguish and flinch at every molecule consumed. There was enough heat bring a sweat to the brow so it that was a win. The cabbage and carrots had some light curry and had a bit of oil on them and they were cooked soft but no mushy. The greens were well cooked and seasoned as well an had an almost creamy texture and no bitterness you sometimes get. The injera was light and spongy fairly neutral in taste, as you’d probably expect for a food that is also a utensil.
The honey wine was an appealing gold color and as sweet as the name implies. It was light and pleasant but 1 glass was plenty.
When I was obviously done the gentleman waiting on me asked if I’d like to try their coffee and I was certainly up for that. It took a while as they brew it a cup at a time. I honestly expected one of those kid’s tea party size cups with a strong coffee in it. What he came back with was a full sized cup with some really strong coffee and a container of sugar. I took that first sip after adding a little sugar and it was awesome. He stood watching me to see how I would react and asked if it was too strong. When I said it wasn’t we spent a bit of time talking about his first experience and disappointment at getting a cup of coffee here. “It was like coffee flavored tea” was his impression.
Then we discussed the other more traditional table or mesob pictured below. It is woven basket and he pointed to a picture of a hut behind me and said since they still often lived in those they didn’t have room for tables like mine and with the wicker they could easily store it up off the floor.
For a first experience I’d have to say it was a nice one. The guy was friendly and helpful without being too chatty, the food was tasty and I got to work on my one handed, no fork, eating skills. I’d definitely recommend this place.
Here is there website. It is kind of awful but fortunately the skill is in the food and hospitality if not in the tech.
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