Monday, November 2, 2009

Week 10: Abay Ethiopian Cuisine

Just off of Penn Circle in East Liberty, there is an Ethiopan restaurant named ABAY --- which, in Amharic, refers to the main source of nourishment for the Nile River (no, I didn't take a night class in African languages, I just read the menu).

I'll describe my experience as a series of several internal (yet wonderful) debates...

Debate Number 1: I'm 99 % sure that this debate comes up for the majority of patrons, that is --- Where is Ethiopia?

Well, it's right here:

(and also it's noted on the map in the vestibule of the establishment --- It's like they knew we were unsure!)

When you enter ABAY, you have the option of eating at a table or on traditional stools at the front window. Steve and I opted for a table, as I was already kind of in my Halloween Costume(just the dress), and stools are difficult in a dress.

Debate Number 2: What to have to drink?

Might I recommend bringing a bottle of wine?...that's right --- ABAY is BYOB!

Debate Number 3: What to order?

I'm not going to lie, I am completely clueless when it comes to Ethiopian food (as I'm assuming many of you are as well --- if not, I'm impressed). The menu has it's own glossary of Amharic terms, but I was still a bit puzzled. Thankfully, our waitress had some GREAT recommendations. Here's what we went with:

The Combination Platter for 2:

  • Zizil Tibs: It's a spicy mix of beef strips, awaze (spicy paste made from red pepper, garlic, ginger, and cinnamon), peppers, onions, and herbs. But not too spicy, my low tolerance could handle it, especially with our wine to calm my palette.
  • Gomen Besiga: It's cube beef mixed with kale, peppers, ginger, garlic, and onions. THIS was my favorite, and consequentally I have a huge bag of kale in my fridge after a trip to the Strip District the next day.
  • Doro Minchet Abish: It's chicken diced and simmered in a berebere (like awaze, but a powder instead) stew.
  • Ayib be Gomen: Or, as I like to call it, greens and cheese. This one came from the vegetarian portion of the menu, and it was a nice accompaniment to our carnivorous first few dishes.
All of this comes atop ABAY's injera, a light, soft, flat bread that comes on a pizza tray for the table. No utensils, just the injera for scooping.

The Bottom Line

I never would have guessed it, but I am in love with Ethiopian food! I can't stop thinking about how cool the environment was, the expert wait staff, and how much fun it was to eat with my fingers (without making a mess or a slap on the wrist)! ABAY is reasonably priced (on a once a week budget), easy to get to, and even more fun to talk about afterwards.

So, the next time you are in the mood for a change, hit up ABAY, and "Enjoy one of the world's most unique cuisines..."

Abay Ethiopian Cuisine on Urbanspoon

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