Friday, May 6, 2011

Rahel: An Excellent Ethiopian Experience

After a crazy night of driving all over town, my friend and I ended up at Rahel Ethiopian Vegan Cuisine in Little Ethiopia. We first headed to Venice to dine at a Mediterranean-Indian fusion restaurant called Vardo. Unfortunately, they would not accept our gift certificate and since the menu was uber expensive, we decided it would be best to find an alternative restaurant that offered a deal. Luckily, I had printed out most of my gift certificates, so we headed over to Ethiopiatown to dine at one of my favorite restaurants, Rahel. We arrived fairly late and the restaurant was almost empty with the exception of a small group of diners set off in a corner.  We decided to sit by the window so we could glance out into the beautiful night.

I am still fairly new eating Ethiopian food and I have only tried it a couple times before.  My friend and I scanned the menu, unsure of what to order.  I remembered ordering a sampler plate when I dined at Rahel with my dad last summer but could not remember which dish it was.  When the waitress came over, we asked for her suggestion and she pointed out the Veggie Paradise Combo Special which came with a variety of stews and cooked vegetables along with a spicy tomato salad and sambussas. Since we needed to spend atleast $35 to use the gift certificate, we also ordered an extra sambussa, some beverages and a cheesecake for dessert.  I prepared my stomach for all the food we would be getting.

First, the waitress brought out our beverages. I ordered an iced tea and my friend ordered a bottle of water.

The iced tea was delicious. It had a hint of spice and had notes of chocolate. The agave added even more sweetness to it and balanced out the tanginess of the red tea. The drink was so refreshing and cooling and great to drink alongside a mildly spicy meal.

Next, our sambussas came out.

These were so tasty and pretty much identical to samosas. The outside was so flaky and crispy and perfectly deep fried. The inside was soft but was not as curried as a samosa. The flavor was more mild but still tasted great.

Next, the main event came. It was a massive dish filled with various vegetables, each with their own consistency. They were all so well seasoned and worked perfectly together.

The stews were all very soft and easy to eat. It was difficult to tell what each dish was, especially since they were all clumped together.  Nevertheless, each was lightly spiced and many of them had a mushy consistency. I really enjoyed the clumpy inerja bread mixed with sunflower as it had a lightly sweet taste and was very savory. I also surprisingly liked the string beans and carrots as they had a very soft texture with a light spice, yet did not look like baby food unlike some of the other stews. I also loved the tomato salad as it was simultaneously spicy and cooling. The split-lentil and split pea stews were also phenomenal although I would have liked those to have been a little spicier. Regardless, everything was so flavorful and really meshed well together.

Instead of utensils we were given inerja bread, which was very spongy and really sopped up each stew. It felt like making mini-wraps, although the inerja bread was so filling and I could feel it expanding in my stomach.

Finally, our cheesecake came out. We were both stuffed, having demolished the plate of stews. Nevertheless, I can always find room for a sweet ending.

The cheesecake was a little odd but still enjoyable. The bottom was fairly creamy although not very decadent. It had a slightly sweet taste with a hint of saltiness. The topping was a thick layer of strawberry sorbet that had yet to thaw out. Nevertheless, it was delicious and made up for the lack of sweetness below. I would probably order this again although I would let it sit out a while longer before digging in.

Overall, I loved the meal. I am so glad there is an Ethiopian restaurant that is completely vegan and I do not have to worry about any animal products creeping into my meal. We ended up spending about $16 per person with the discount and tax and tip. With all the delicious food we got, it was definitely worth it. I left beyond full, but my stomach was happy.

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