Eritrea Restaurant & Bar
Street/10th Ave., SF
hearing at The Mucky Duck
I thought we were
going for Ethiopian füd, that's what they said. Imagine my dismay
when we showed up at the place and it was Eritrean!! I almost walked.
But, being the good sport I am, I decided to give it a go. After all,
I imagine there's a fine line betwixt Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisines.
It could just be the "Eritrean spices" that they use. At
any rate, this was my first taste of real African dining, and it ain't
The place is big
and fairly well-appointed with what I assume are Eritrean decorations,
most notably these strange painted hides hanging
walls and pinned under the glass tops of the tables. After bickering
over whether they were terriers, large rats, or perhaps capybaras,
we asked the friendly waiter. Goats! They were all goats. Pretty freaking
small goats, though, I'm here to tell you. But painted in a lovely
The food, right.
First out was the Sambusa, a rolled up fried thing, which are never
bad. This one was pretty good, but a tad skimpy
three people. At only three bucks a serving, though, you can get
a couple orders
of this hamburger-onion eggroll-like appetizer. Not spicy at all,
as I recall. Which was good, because we were in for it.
We wanted a
good mix of dishes, so we ordered a Combination, as well as another
dish that caught our eye. The combo went for $10.50 and
included Zigni: pieces of Inera bread soaked in alicah watt (lamb);
chicken cooked with onions, tomatoes, tesmi butter, red pepper
sauce, and Eritrean spices; and Allicha Begee: tender squares of lamb,
with a variety of vegetables, curry, and Eritrean spices. Then
we tacked on Kilwa Begee: strips of lamb simmered with onion, butter,
spices ($9.50). I think we had something else in there, too. Spinach?
like to tell you how each of these were, but the fact is I couldn't
tell the Zebhi from the Zigni when the platter arrived.
a platter it was. A huge tray lined with bread covered with multiple
blobs of various
colors and textures. Not unlike a painter's palette. Along with
this came a bunch of their spongy, sour flat bread, otherwise
spoon and napkin. We just dove in, scooping up at random, and
eventually mixing it all together. Some of these dishes were very spicy,
were very hot, and at least one was like pouring sulphuric acid
on your tongue.
But some people like that kind of thing. The bread for me was
too sour, like super sourdough, but not too spongy.
Over all it was
an interesting dining adventure there at New Eritrea, even if it
wasn't Ethiopian. Some new flavors and textures,
there's nothing wrong with that. I can't compare to other African
but if you're new to the genre, New Eritrea
could be the place to start.
It was the
trick bread, the spongy multi-purpose Injera, that fooled me. It has
at least two purposes, which is one more than most bread. It's the
utensil food. It's also, now that I think of it, kind of a plate, so
that makes three uses. You get it on the side, as a scooper, and then
it's also buried between the real plate and the massive pile of food,
at least in the case of the combination plate we had.
Its fourth use,
maybe, is to fool some diner like me. I've been eating solid foods
for many years, over which time I've figured out how much
my stomach can hold. I've also got the metabolism of a hummingbird
or an Italian greyhound. So feeling bloated after eating, wanting to
down in a field like I was in some Brueghel
painting, this is unfamiliar to me. But the deceptive bread
expands, I believe, in your stomach. Leaving the restaurant I was full,
but half an hour later I was something far beyond it-- my stomach felt
like the cheeks of a trumpeter. The N Judah that took me home may as
well have been a wheelbarrow.
But this is really
all my fault. So too, I believe, was the digestive turmoil I suffered
later. I can't hold
this against New Eritrea. The
food atop the Injera was my kind of meal: spicy, varied, and savory.
I enjoyed the lamb and the beef a lot (although we weren't always
sure which was which), and the vegetarian sections were not short on
either. If you're eating with carnivores and herbivores, I wouldn't
recommend getting the combo like this, because once you start scooping
everything gets all mixed up. I suggest you go. But if you go, hedge
your bets and come up just shy of stuffed. Your stomach will thank
had my introduction to Ethiopian cuisine working at the Queen
of Sheba back in high school. I was the dishwasher/cutlery polisher/napkin
folder and enjoyed partaking of the delights the restaurant had
to offer. I'm pretty sure it was my first encounter with hummus. While
New Eritrea doesn't serve up a hummus, who needs it when it has become
a staple at every grocery and corner market. We did try an appetizer,
the Sambusa, described as an eggroll shell fried and filled with prime
ground beef and prepared with onions and Eritrean spices. It was
nothing spectacular. The shell wasn't what I expected -- a bit doughier
than I would have liked. Any who, we could have done without
it because the main course was so plentiful we weren't able to polish
meal was served family style on a large platter of Injera bread which
is used as a utensil. This bread is great, spongy
and sorta sour, great for soaking up juices, grabbing a bit of beef,
or cooling off the
taste buds after a particularly spicy bite. Our feast consisted
of beef, lamb, chicken and spinach for about 20 bucks. All were
marinated nicely and spiced ranging from medium to zing zow whoah --
hot. I relished all the dishes and was bummed I couldn't keep
eating but I was oh so full. The service was friendly and the
waiter was a help in our decision on what to order. Another plus
was the bar (beer and wine): beers for only $2.50 a pint.
are looking for something a bit different in this city of so
many choices, give new Eritrea a try, I think you will like.