During various road trips across the mainland, Ethiopian-born Abra- ham Samuel and his wife, Fay Shewa, visited many different Ethiopian restaurants. “Each time we visited we came out saying, ‘Wow, I think we could do better.’ To us, it was watered down. Literally. And so that’swhere the idea came up to open a restaurant,” said Samuel. Located in Chinatown, Ethiopian Love Restaurant is well-known for its authentic, traditional Ethiopian food, in particular, wot (stews) and injera (bread). Although the earthy flavors of Ethiopian cuisine are quite different from typical American food, this does not mean that enjoying Ethiopian dishes requires an acquired taste; both the flavors and experience can beenjoyed by everyone.
Ethiopian Love Restaurant takes pride in serving only natural, unpro-cessed foods. Many ingredients, such as kebe (a spiced clarified butter), mitmita (an Ethiopian spice mix), and bebere (red peppers), are imported from Ethiopia. Samuel and Shewa encourage customers to eat in themost “natural” way possible–by using one’s hands. Aunty Mekey, the restaurant’s manager, told us her mother used to always say: “‘Why do people put metal in their mouths?’ The food tastes better when you eat it by hand. God gave us our hands, which are natural, and when you eat with hands, you enjoy every bit of [the dish].”
Ethiopian culture’s emphasis on family is recreated through the cozy, indirect lighting and casual conversations, which can be heard throughout the restaurant. The method of communal eating, where everyone shares one platter of various wots, serves to bring people closer together. In an age where electronics have a stronghold in ourlives, the relaxed, laid-back atmosphere is a welcome respite from thebustling outside world.
The restaurant’s service is true to its name, Ethiopian Love. The friendly staff was more than willing to make recommendations and answer any questions. The food was served within 10-15 minutes of ordering.
Although the cost for dinner may seem high for students, EthiopianLove is a toasty place to connect with family or friends. Coupled with the great food, the price is worth it.
- Ethiopian Love Veggie Sampler – $22 for 1 person, $42 for 2 people – Lamb Alicha – $23
- Love Peanut Tea – $6.50
- Extra Injera (4 rolls) – $3
Ethiopian Love Restaurant is about a block from the Smith BeretaniaPark on 1112 Smith St Honolulu, HI 96817. Ethiopian Love Restau-rant opens at 5 p.m. so that they can make use of the mornings/after- noons to prepare the food. For more information, visit their websiteat http://www.ethiopianlovehi.com/.
Contrary to the stereotypes of being “boring” or “unsatisfying,” the restaurant’s selection of vegan, gluten-free dishes makes for hearty comfort foods.
Injera, a sourdough-risen flatbread and the national staple of Ethi- opia, is made with a gluten-free grain called teff, which the restaurantimports from Ethiopia. When eating, diners unroll the injera and teara small piece to dip into the wot. The springy injera is the perfect complement to the wot as it holds its structure well, contrasting withthe wot’s soft, thick texture. This slightly tangy crepe-like bread isneatly rolled up and placed along the perimeter of the plate. Thedough is fermented for 2-3 days while it develops its distinct flavor.
Ethiopian Love Veggie Sampler, one of Ethiopian Love’s popu-lar dishes, is a combination of six vegetarian dishes. On the day we visited, the Veggie Sampler included the Kik Alicha Wot, Miser Wot, Azifa, cabbage, potatoes, spinach, and tomatoes. The Kik Alicha Wotis a stew made with yellow split peas, turmeric, garlic, and ginger.Diners first get hit with a well-seasoned punch, then the flavor slowly becomes sweet as the wot melts in your mouth. The Miser Wot is a slightly spicy stew made with red split lentils. Its flavor, similar to thatof sun-dried tomatoes, is both savory and tart. The wot’s abundance of spices, such as cardamom, cloves, and turmeric, creates a memo-rable medley of bold flavors. The Azifa is a combination of brownlentils, onion, jalapeno, and fresh lemon juice. Unlike the wot, theAzifa has whole lentils, providing a contrast in texture compared to the other dishes. Additionally, the Azifa acts as a palate cleanser, dueto the lemon juice and onions.
Besides vegan dishes, the restaurant also serves meat. We ordered Lamb Alicha, which is defined in the menu as “turmeric-braised lamb stew.” Coated in a thick sauce, the lamb was tender and flavorful. The flavor was further enhanced by the sour injera.
We finished our meal with a cup of Love Peanut Tea. To most whoare familiar with hot chocolate, this drink, made with roasted pea-nuts, is like a “hot, liquid peanut butter.” The mellow, nutty flavor and creaminess of the tea makes diners feel relaxed after a hearty meal.
By Chelsea Chang / Staff Writer | Claudia Tang / Co-editor in Chief