Friday, February 12, 2010


Abyssinia Restaurant
2600 Poplar Ave. #115

My husband, Warren, is a big fan of Ethiopian food. I like it too, but not as much as I like about a million other things. However, for the sake of marital bliss and to introduce the monkeys (Satchel, 7, and Jiro, 5) to a new cuisine, we decided to go to Absynnia last Thursday night. It just so happened that my mom, my 10 year old niece, and my 13 year old nephew joined us. Because Ethiopian food is best when served family style, I like having a lot of people in tow so we can order several dishes. (The last time Warren and I went to Absynnia we caught the tail end of the buffet and were not impressed.)

On the way over I texted my friend, Elizabeth, who loves Absynnia, to see what we should order. She instructed me to get the lamb and the chicken stew. "You really can't go wrong," she said. Once we all got seated and I convinced the monkeys to stop dipping their Legos in their drinking water, I was put in charge of ordering. I asked for the Yebeg Tibes (stir fried lamb), Yedoro Key Wat (chicken stew), Gored Gored (cubed beef), Yetsome Bayaynetu (a vegetarian sampler), and Tilapia.

There seemed to be a lot of trepidation on the part of my mom and my niece, but they kept it to themselves. Satchel wanted to read the menu and Jiro wanted a run down of the kid options, but I told them to just trust me. There was no kids' menu listed, but there is an (expired) coupon on Memphis Menus Online that says "Free child's meal with purchase of adult's meal." I only just saw the coupon while looking up the menu, so I didn't ask about it while we were there.

While we waited on the food I insisted on all 4 kids washing their hands. Having seen them lick their fingers after dipping the Legos, I was a bit grossed out. Suddenly the family style eating didn't sound too appealing. Everyone obliged and when they came back to the table, I instructed them to wait for me to show them how to pick up bites of food with the injera.

Once the food came out, we ended up spooning a taste of everything on to a special plate for the kids' end of the table. Everyone got their own plate of injera, which was nice. I think the 5 out of 7 of us who had never eaten Ethiopian were a little surprised by what came out, but luckily everyone was hungry enough not to voice any complaints.

The monkeys immediately zoned in on the chicken drummies. I tried a bite of the accompanying stew and it was quite spicy. I worried they would take one bite and then freak out, but much to my amazement, they both finished their legs. (Satchel did drink a ton of water though!)

Once Jiro ate his chicken, he declared himself finished. Satchel on the other hand, was enjoying the new flavors. The injera was by far his favorite thing. He ate all of his large portion straight from the plate. "The injera smells like bologna!" he cooed. (I believe that was a compliment.) He was also a big fan of the cheese, which was like a cross between cottage and feta.

My niece and nephew also seemed to be enjoying the food. My mom, despite being very sensitive to spice, tried some of everything and reported that she liked it. Everything was incredibly spicy, which is fine by me, but probably not the best for most kids. I definitely stuffed myself. The chicken stew was my favorite. Warren lamented the fact that we didn't order any goat, but for the most part seemed happy. His only real complaint was that they never brought out the hot tea he ordered. They were very, very attentive to the water, however. Very. Attentive.

The kids started quizzing each other on social studies topics and I went to the counter to pay the bill. I was a little shocked by the price tag--$62--but reminded myself that it was for 7 instead of our usual 4. I got a small (styrofoam) box for the little bit of leftovers that we had and then we went happily on our way.

(Satchel begged me to let him eat the leftovers the next day! I think eating the really spicy food was like a rite of passage for him.)


Unknown said...

I love, Love, LOVE that place. We had it the other night - one of Memphis' best kept secrets. When I tell people that I'm getting Ethiopian food, I get strange looks from the uninitiated, but that place is the JAM!

Anonymous said...

Looks like fun.

xeyxey said...

I haven't been to Abyssinia since earlier this year, but I used to go about once a month. It used to be A LOT better than it is now, but it's still pretty good. If you go to Nashville, you should try Horn of Africa. =D

Real Stories said...

I know this is a pretty late comment, but I'm just reading this review.

I've only visited once and was very impressed by what I ordered. I'd visit again.

@ James - I get strange looks to when I said I've eaten there before. You definitely can't knock it until you've tried it!

Good review!

Matthew Lee Studio said...

A few years later....they have changed ownership, but the food is more or less the same. Note, for the vegans out there, they have a vegetable plate, that is really good and 100 percent vegan. My wife and I live a few blocks away from Abyssinia- and she is vegan, so we get a "veggie" to go nearly once a week. The greens and string beans are really good and we fight over these. The meat dishes are a bit too spicy for me, so I usually share the veggie plate with her, its enough for two people if your not famished. If you are a soccer fan, they have soccer on TV live there all the time.

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