Taste of Ethiopia
There are so many luscious dishes on offer here, it may be difficult to decide on just one or two
Reviewed by Rachel Feit, Fri., March 26, 2010
Taste of Ethiopia1100 Grand Avenue Pkwy., Pflugerville, 512/251-4053
As Austin grows and becomes more diverse, so too do its suburbs, attracting a multiethnic population eager to take advantage of new jobs, affordable housing, good schools, and all the other quality-of-life opportunities the suburbs offer. So it should be no surprise that places like Pflugerville, Bastrop, and Round Rock are also swiftly spawning a brood of good and inexpensive international restaurants catering to increasingly global cravings. Taste of Ethiopia is among the new eateries already attracting intrepid diners from throughout the metropolitan area searching for culinary adventure.
Taste of Ethiopia reflects the vision of husband-and-wife team Solomon Hailu and Woinee Mariam, who clearly care about food. The friendly couple is always on hand at the restaurant, taking orders, answering questions, and generally looking very pleased at their customers' near universal expressions of satisfaction over their meals. I have to agree with their customers: Taste of Ethiopia serves some mighty fine fare.
Let's start with the injera, the spongy sour flat bread made from a grain called teff that forms the foundation of the Ethiopian meal. No meal is served without it. In fact, Ethiopian food is typically eaten without utensils of any sort. The injera is used both as serving platter and utensils to hold and scoop up the meats and stews served atop it. Here, injera is made from scratch daily. And though I found the bread to be too mild for my taste, the owner convincingly explained to me that he actually prefers it a little less sour and believes that a lot of his customers do too (though he did admit that most Ethiopians prefer their injera on the sour side).
The other major component of Ethiopian cookery is berbere sauce, ruby-red in color and made from a slow stewing of garlic, onions, ginger, cardamom, turmeric, and ground chiles to produce a complex, bold condiment that is used to flavor just about everything from lentils to meat. You can't go wrong ordering anything made with this at Taste of Ethiopia. It accompanies the excellent sambusas ($3.95) – flaky phyllo-like pastries stuffed with savory lentils. And it forms the basis for the Minchet Abish ($5.95), an appetizer of ground beef stewed in berbere sauce with a flavor that practically detonates on contact. Berbere is also used in Doro Wat ($12.95), the Ethiopian national dish, which involves chicken on the bone simmered in the stuff. Do order it.
Of course, not everything is cooked in berbere suace. The Alicha Siga Wot ($10.95), for instance, consists of stewed beef in a sauce of turmeric and ginger. The meat is slow-simmered and not chewy at all. The stew is thoughtfully spiced, though not spicy. All in all, a very tasty dish.
In fact, there are so many luscious dishes on offer here, it may be difficult to decide on just one or two. One good option is the vegetarian sampler ($17.95). Easily big enough to feed three people, the sampler consists of five separate vegetarian dishes: spicy chopped collard greens, lentils in berbere sauce, yellow split peas in turmeric, stewed cabbage, and green beans with carrots. The chopped collard greens are warm, spicy, and buttery all at the same time. The lentils in berbere sauce are divine. The green beans are bathed in a gingery brew of tomatoes and chiles. It's an ideal introduction to Ethiopia's truly superb culinary tapestry.
Taste of Ethiopia offers a vegetarian lunch buffet on weekdays from 11am to 2pm. For those living in Central Austin, it's worth making the trip to Pflugerville. For those already in Pflugerville ... lucky you.