Food in New York City: Awash Restaurant
Bogolech Marrero named her restaurant
Awash River, a tributary of the Blue Nile. She explained
that she always crosses the
Awash as she nears home on her trips back to Ethiopia.
During a brief visit to New York this February, I
to stop in for a glass of tej, that wonderful
honey wine that warms you on even a chill New York
night, plus some injera and stews.
of course, is a spongy bread commonly
made from a fermented teff, or tef (a type of millet)
cooked in giant pancake shapes and has
tang. The injera serves as a plate and is
covered with spicy stews made from chicken (like
injera alongside the platter double as
utensils for scooping up stews and sauces (or soaking
from the common platter.
Masi and I started with tej and sambusas,
which must be related to samosas. Our vegetarian version was
stuffed with green chilis, lentils, and some other spiced
vegetables, then covered with a pastry shell, and deep-fried.
We moved on to a combination plate that included tibs
wat (wat means stew and I'm guessing tibs
means beef), doro alicha (doro must mean
chicken, and alicha [or alecha] is a more
delicately seasoned dish). Though wat literally means
stew, according to the folks at Kokeb restaurant in Seattle
Washington where I ate a year ago, it could also be translated
as "hot" since "wats" are prepared with
berbere, a popular hot red pepper-based Ethiopian
seasoning. Another distinctive ingredient in Ethiopian cooking
is niter kibbeh, an herb butter. The "alichas"
are not prepared with berbere, but with more suble
had a number of vegetarian stews/sauces on our injera.
I've heard that because the Coptic church has a large number
of fast days throughout the year when eating meat is forbidden,
this part of Sub-Saharan Africa tends to have more vegetarian
dishes than its neighbors. Bogolech Marrero told me that since
she became a vegetarian she has experimented with developing
her own recipes using Ethiopian ingredients and techniques.
She must have been successful, as The Village Voice in 2000
declared Awash to have the Best Ethiopian Vegetarian Plate,
and in 2002 the restaurant was listed among The TONY Top 100
(in the 6th Annual Eat Out Awards).
I found the cozy family atmosphere comfortably unpretentious,
the menu prices agreeable (entrees were only $10-15), and
the food delicious. Each of the two walls on one side of the
candle-lit dining room was covered with large impressive portraits
of past emperors, the other side with pastoral scenes. Of
course, we're used to spicy West African cooking, so if you
prefer a milder cuisine, I'm not sure if those options are
available. Also, don't come looking for seafood dishes or
mushrooms (someone told me most people in Ethiopia don't eat
mushrooms, that they call them "the hyena's umbrella.")
The food was filling, and I was sorry I had no room for any
Ethiopian coffee or spiced tea at the end. I recommend you
stop by if you're in the area. The restaurant is located
at 947 Amsterdam Ave. in New York City, phone number: 212-961-1416.
Their posted hours were Monday through Friday 1 p.m. to 12
a.m., Saturday and Sunday noon to 12 a.m. Tell them
Fran sent you!
you can't get to Awash, there are lots of other Ethiopian/Eritrean
restaurants to choose from. Checksome of them out
(but there are many not listed here) at Ethiopia
Restaurants Around the Globe for
listings, menus, and recipes. Enjoy your messa (Amharic
for lunch) or irat (dinner).
Fran Osseo-Asare, 2003
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