What happens when all the usual ethnic cuisines no longer give you a thrill? Perhaps you should go Ethiopian.
Abyssinia, located on 45th and Locust streets, serves delicious and affordable Ethiopian cuisine. It is just five blocks from the Market Street subway, and right off of Penn’s campus. Entrees usually cost between $7 and $9, and desserts cost between $2 and $3.
Eating Ethiopian cuisine is a very interesting experience. While forks come with the salads, you eat the main course with your hands.
The main courses are stews made of beef, lamb, chicken or vegetables. They can be either spicy or mild, depending on your preference. The meat in these stews is very tender, and the abundance of vegetarian entrees makes Abyssinia an attractive restaurant for vegetarians.
For those not used to Ethiopian cuisine, explaining how the food is served takes a few steps and requires you to learn a crucial new vocabulary word. This word is “injera.” Injera is flat, crepe-like bread that is used to pick up food.
Before the entrees are served, the server brings out a large plate covered with injera and places it in the middle of the table. Then the server brings out everyone’s entrees and spoons them all onto this injera-covered plate.
The server also brings out a smaller plate containing a folded up sheet of injera. When she sees the perplexed look in your eyes, she offers to show you how to eat your dinner.
In order to eat Ethiopian food, you must not be afraid to eat with your hands. First you rip off a piece of injera. Next, place it between your fingers and use it to pick up a piece of stew. Now you are ready to eat the injera- covered stew (which at this point looks like a miniature soft taco). Repeat and enjoy.
Everyone at the table shares their food with everyone else, since it is all spooned onto one plate. As a result, it is a good idea to order with your friends or date in mind, and to wash your hands before digging in.
While the main courses are excellent, the desserts have been a little spotty lately. Although the baklava they serve is good, lately they have been out of baklava as well as all of their other desserts.
The dining room at Abyssinia is tucked away behind the bar. But the dining room is spacious and the dcor is nice. Large high-backed chairs and walls are covered with traditional Ethiopian paintings. It can get a bit chilly in the dining room during the winter. You should probably wear a thick sweater or keep your jacket on.
Overall, Abyssinia is an affordable restaurant that offers delicious and exotic food. If you bring a date, you can impress him or her with your cultural sophistication while still eating with your hands.
Dan KristieJosephine Munis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org