Occupation: UC Berkeley Media Studies Professor
Favorite Restaurant: Addis Ethiopian Restaurant
Reviewed Addis Ethiopian Restaurant: Sunday, April 18, 2010
Addis Ethiopian Restaurant was my recommendation, and it is one of my favorite restaurants in the Bay Area. I find that Ethiopian Cuisine doesn’t have the same following in the Bay Area as Thai or Indian, for example, and that’s a shame. I have long had affection for Ethiopian-style dining, and I find that Addis is one of the best examples of it that I have encountered.
Following Ethiopian dining style, all dishes in Addis come served family style on a big metal plate covered by injera — a spongy and a bit sour Ethiopian pancake. There is no silverware, you use generous helpings of injera to pick up and eat the yummy food. Eating with your fingers and sharing the same dishes creates a very friendly atmosphere at the table. We always come to Addis with friends, and it has always been a fun and delicious atmosphere.
Ethiopian cuisine mainly consists of meat, fish, and vegetable stews. The flavoring is somewhat Indian in style, but much milder, yet still spicy. Addis does the food well. It is not gourmet eating, but rather amazing comfort food, easily shared and easily enjoyed at incredibly reasonable price.
At our last visit, we had their famous vegetarian combo — the restaurant has been voted as best vegetarian food in the east bay — which included collard greens, potatoes, spicy lentils, and chickpeas. All of these were amazingly flavorful, and the dish comes with a salad and homemade Ethiopian fish. We also had zilzil tibs –marinated and grilled pieces of beef — again, perfectly flavorful and tender and served with a side of Ethiopian spicy sauce. We shared fish tibs — one of the few seafood items on the menu. Addis does seafood really well. These were perfectly flaky pieces of fish in a spicy sauce. The sauce wasn’t too overwhelming. A 10-year-old in our group was particularly fond of these tibs. We also had yasega wot — pieces of beef slow cooked in spicy sauce — which was perfectly flaky and juicy. We have been to Addis many times and the food never disappoints.
Addis is great for both an Ethiopian food novice, and an aficionado of the cuisine. I have brought my mom and 85-year-old grandmother to Addis, and they have instantly become Ethiopian cuisine converts. There is something so fun about eating with one’s hands, and the atmosphere of the restaurant is so easygoing and relaxing that the experience immediately puts everyone at ease. The service is also very good. The waitresses are very patient with people who might be unfamiliar with the cuisine and they never hesitate to offer an opinion on food selection.
If you like Ethiopian or always wanted to try Ethiopian, get a few friends together, go to Addis, drink honey wine, and enjoy delicious food. It is as good as it gets!
Occupation: Retired Middle School Teacher
Location: San Anselmo
Favorite Restaurant: Panama Hotel & Restaurant
Reviewed Addis Ethiopian Restaurant: Monday, April 12, 2010
Addis Ethiopian Restaurant is easy to locate, as it sits on a corner of busy Telegraph Avenue on the Oakland side of the Berkeley/Oakland border. Parking is easy in the neighborhood, though the restaurant does have a small lot that accommodates half a dozen cars. You enter the restaurant through a row of crash barriers at the front door, probably the result of too many people failing to negotiate their exit from the small lot. The interior is pleasantly light, though during the course of our meal the lights were continually dimmed until the point when the waitress delivered small votives in red glass holders to each table in the darkened room. Tables are separated by attractive bamboo screens to lend an air of privacy. The tables are bare of any place settings, but include a bud vase with carnations.
The patrons on a Monday night included Ethiopian couples and families looking for comfort food, and groups of grad students looking for a good deal.
The menu carries three suggested appetizers and a large selection of meat and vegetarian dishes. Wine, beer and tea are available, with Ethiopian specialties prominent.
My dining partner and I were interested in the kifto, a minced raw meat dish. We added optional collard greens and soft white cheese to the mix. We also ordered a lamb dish, which I believe was called alicha. For a vegetable, we chose eggplant. All meals are served on a communal platter with a chopped lettuce and tomato salad, spice pools, and a basket of injera, which serves as your fork and spoon. The injera has the texture of a wet chamois cloth, but it tears easily into pocket-sized pieces to scoop the food. The taste of the injera, however, is shamwow! It has a great sourdough flavor, but does not overwhelm the food it is supporting. After our order, we were delivered our tea, which came as a tea bag and a glass of hot, spiced water. Simple, but flavorful.
Ethiopian food is prepared to order, so expect a wait. Our experience was reasonable. Only once did I see a platter leave the kitchen that I expected to be ours that was not. Happily, our meal was the next out. I would suggest going with friends intent on conversation, and the time will pass quickly.
The aromas that filled the restaurant since we entered now wafted from our own table. Our favorite entrée was the kifto. The meat was nicely seasoned and was melt-in-your mouth tender. The collards and cheese were a fine addition. Because we were unfamiliar with the menu, we made the error of ordering two dishes — the lamb and eggplant — with a similar spice base. This made the platter monochromatic, both in color and flavor. The eggplant was creamy and stood up well to the rich spices. The lamb pieces were tasty but overcooked, so they were tough. Some pieces contained gristle, which detracted from the dish. I was glad to have the chopped lettuce available to add some cool crunch to the spice.
We were not offered dessert, but we were so stuffed we would not have ordered it anyway. The waitress refilled our tea glasses with hot water, and we milked a little more flavor out of our original tea bags. It was a nice way to settle the meal as we waited for our check. The next best surprise comes with the bill. We couldn’t believe how small it was. Wow!
This is a restaurant I would love to return to. I would definitely go with more people. Four to six would be a good number to increase the variety of entrees on the platter. An added bonus is that if, an hour later, you want a reminder of your delicious meal…just smell your fingers.
Occupation: Personal Trainer & Boxing Instructor
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Woodhouse Fish Co.
Reviewed Addis Ethiopian Restaurant: Saturday, April 10, 2010
Okay, so you’ve got to stick with me as I begin this review, because it’s not going to sound good, but that’s not the case. Addis Ethiopian Restaurant is located on ever-popular Telegraph Avenue in Oakland. Let’s just say the exact area is not a place known for a whole lot of foot traffic or window shopping. The neighborhood was a better place to go with my gritty girlfriend, not so much my mother. This restaurant is clearly a destination you need to know about, because the outside is very modest and could easily be passed if you didn’t know it was there.
We arrived at 5:30 PM, and there was plenty of street parking available. On the way out, we realized there was also a small parking lot. It was easy to find, easy to park, and we’d soon find out it was also very easy to dine there. When we walked in, the host told us to sit wherever we’d like. Although early, about half of the restaurant was already full and some take-out meals were on their way out the door. The restaurant was clearly busy, but the servers/hosts were calm, cool, and collected. I may be jumping ahead a bit in the review, but I want to note that all of the servers had a hand in helping us at some point, and they worked together as a team. This small aspect helped to make the entire atmosphere pleasant. Additionally, world music was playing at an appropriate level in the background, My girlfriend Julie wanted to make sure I noted the good music.
Here’s where I’m going to start looking very ill-versed on anything Ethiopian. We had an appetizer, and it was a vegetarian appetizer. We also had the vegetarian combination and the meat combination plates for dinner. For dessert, we had baklava and pecan pie with vanilla ice cream. Julie also had spiced tea. Everything was unique and new to me, except the pie. Pie is very familiar to me. The food was fresh, and the presentation was colorful and fun. The eating with the hands part was also a good time because how often do you get to do that, right?
However, I’m not going to recommend this for a first date, because food ends up in odd places when utensils aren’t involved. I don’t know, maybe that’s good. Anyhow, we ate and we ate a lot. I ate many things I don’t know how to pronounce, and I’m not even sure what they were, but I liked it that way. I knew I liked it, and that was good enough for me.
I must mention the bread-pancake-thing called injera. I found the name on their website, and yes, it was on the menu too. If you have curiosity about Ethiopian food, you’ll find some good information on their website. Injera is some odd stuff, and an acquired taste. The fermented sourdough teff batter, which gives this airy pancake bread a tangy flavor, is really different. The tang is a unique flavor, and the use of injera to scoop up the food is a unique dining experience. I’m still thinking about it.
Before our tasty desserts were done, the place was full. It was also full of life. The tables consisted of young families, older couples, college students, and friends. If you enjoy people watching, it is fun to see so many different walks of life. Overall, we were very impressed by the entire dining experience, especially since I would have never picked this restaurant on my own. It was a delightful surprise.