Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Taste of Ethiopia in San Jose



Pics: Courtesy of Zeni

Where is Ethiopia and what kind of food do they eat there were questions that were on my mind before K and I decided to try out this Ethiopian restaurant called Zeni in San Jose last Friday night. While we entered the restaurant at 7:15 and found that the place was a small, 2 roomed restaurant that (resembled a fast food place) had a combination of Ethiopian cultural seating arrangements on one room and regular tables on the other room. While there were 4 other couples waiting before us to be seated, we thought we should get a table in 30 minutes. But, we weren't seated until almost 8:00 or later, a good 45 minute wait time. While we were waiting, we noticed that the food was taking time to be delivered to the tables, causing the diners to linger more at their tables and hence a longer wait time.

We observed that the people who dined were mostly Ethiopians and extremely tall folks and several Indians were also present. I guess the reason for that would be that the menu had several vegetarian options and once we tasted the food, our suspicions were confirmed.

We started with the sambussa appetizer (which is a combination of samosa and puff) that was hot and tasted delicious with the spicy sauce that accompanied it. While, the main entree comprised of vegetarian dishes like Gomen Kitfo, Yemisir Wot, Kik Alticha, Ye-timatim fitfit, foule etc. Sound like gibberish? Well, all of them fortunately had explanations in English as to what the constitutents of the dish were and while I ordered the Yemisir Wot which is a pureed split red lentil dish cooked in a spicy sauce, K sampled the Atakilt Wot which was a curry comprised of boiled cabbage, carrot and potatoes. Both our dishes complimented well with each other and were served on a giant size dosa like dish called Injera which they say is a thousand year old Ethiopian unleaved bread. The only thing that I disliked was the waitress served both our curries on the same giant injera and K and I had to tear the bread and eat off of the same big plate, not the most hygienic eating practice.

The restaurant had a key board player who played some great tunes in the background which complimented the eating experience. The restaurant owner an Ethiopian dude came around most tables enquiring about the quality of the food etc. and also sold some of the dosa (injera bread) to folks who raved about its taste.

Zeni is a moderatly priced cuisine that caters to the Indian taste buds thoroughly.

21 comments:

Bavani said...

Oh! That's just plain cruel - tempting poor me in little Boise with such mouth-watering dishes! I'll use your blog posts as part of my Lonely Planet travel guide when we make a trip out there - hopefully next year :)
We do have a Cajun restaurant here that has a friendly dude (the owner/chef) who goes from table to table to enquire abt the quality of food - that makes a difference, doesn't it?

Usha said...

Hi I have passed this restaurant so many times in the past and never tried it out,since I was not sure of their vegetarian choices :)Hey you have been tagged and you have a magic lamp waiting for you at my blog,do check it out.

Cham said...

Other than injera , i cannot identify anyhthing!
The injera should have tasted great, not easy to prepare, (dough fermented for several days) he he , u guys ve such a patience to wait to get a seat and even taste different countries food!

TBC said...

I've never had a taste of Ethiopian food but would love to try it sometime. I don't think we have any Ethiopian restaurants in my neck of the woods though...

Rajitha said...

hey i loove ethiopian food..we always get the vegetarian platter..sorta like the veggie thali...and i love eating from a common plate..of-course the great hubby is faster than me..so i invariably overeat..trying to make sure i get enough of the food :D..but i know where you are coming from..my parents would never share from the same plate..the horrers :D

Spillay said...

Good on you for experiencing a new culture! Thanks for ahring too! :)

Just someone said...

We have been there too:) yes it is a nice place!

yes, we also like the cuisine, quite veggie friendly:) and we frequent one in our neck of the woods!

Uma said...

never tasted ethiopian food. the plate looks so inviting.

Bavani said...

You've been tagged - read to the end of my post :)

Krishnan said...

Ethiopian cuisine ! Good that you get to experience such exotic cuisine. Never heard of any restaurant here in India serving Ethiopian dishes.

AJEYA RAO said...

This pic of that food makes me hungry. :-) I wish i had tried the restuarant while i was there.

mitr_bayarea said...

Bavani-

yes, Bay Area has a variety of restaurants catering to all cuisines which you must try when you come here to visit. Will take up the tag soon.

Usha- yes, its worth trying once, will take up the tag soon.

Cham- Yes, the injera was so tasty, well fermented.

TBC- Too bad, you can try visiting this place if you are here.

Rajitha- yes, the veggie platter would have a sample of all..we'll get that next time. you got that right, eating off the same plate ):

Spillay- as long as veggie options exist, we'll boldly sample

Just someone- glad you've been there too, what is the other place in ur neck of the woods?

Uma- yes, you must try sometime.

Krishnan- just a matter of time only, before this comes to India.

Ajeya- yes, that would have been nice.

Amrutha said...

Hey! It is great you got to try out Zeni. We were once turned down at the door although it was well before restaurant closing time. I have always enjoyed Ethiopian Food. Next time, you should try their yogurt too. Tastes heavenly! Ethiopians and Persians have family style eating. You could request for more Injera bread on a separate plate, if you don't like the family style eating. I sometimes enjoy the soggy Injera bread soaked with the flavors of the curries on top :) Enjoy!

A-kay said...

Ethiopian cuisine is very closely related to Indian (or more specifically South Indian, I think) :) I have been to Zeni and love the place. Nice write up.

mitr_bayarea said...

Amrutha-

Thanks for sharing your experience at Zeni, will try their yogurt on our next visit.

A-kay-

Welcome Back, missed your comments. Yes, ethiopian cuisine definitely has a south indian flavor to it.

Priya said...

Mitr,

Never had any clue about Ethopian dishes. Its really nice to share here and gives an open look when you come across such dishes to taste in future.

mitr_bayarea said...

Priya,

thanks..yes, if you happen to come across an ethiopian place, feel free to try it out.

Me too said...

Few years back when a friend of mine said she & her hubby went to an Ethiopian restaurant for their anniversary dinner, I was quite shocked cos' Ethiopia, food, vegetarian etc., in my limited knowledge, seemed a mismatch! LOL!

yaadayaada said...

We frequent Zeni a lot. You can ask for separate plates instead of family style. They do bring the dishes separately if you ask for it. And I have seen several patrons asking for it!
http://yaadayaada.wordpress.com

Sireesha said...

An award is waiting for u at my blog:))

Never tasted ethiopian food. the plate looks so inviting.

mitr_bayarea said...

Aparna-haha, yes, that is what we think until we see the menu and the veggie choices.

Yaadayaada- thanks for stopping by my blog, that is helpful to know that at Zeni they bring a separate platter if you askf or it, will remember to do so next time.

Sireesha- Thanks for the award...try it sometime.