Don Bauder 7:49 p.m., May 22
One of the great pleasures in life is communal dining with friends. Especially when you throw away your knife, fork and inhibitions, and dig in with some warm injera.
Muzita Abyssinian Bistro, on Park Boulevard in University Heights, provides just such an experience. Owned and operated by the Woldemichael family, Muzita is set in a snug bungalow that’s relaxed and welcoming.
The dining room is beautiful, drenched in warm colors and soft candlelight. Wafts of intoxicating spice drift from the kitchen and perfume the air all the way out to the sparkly, cozy patios.
Our choices for starters were sambusas ($12), those devilishly addicting stuffed fried pastries, and kantisha kilwa ($13), button mushrooms with zucchini, tesmi, tomato and serranos.
The sambusas arrived screaming hot and delightfully golden brown. The crisp crust was filled with hamli, a earthy mix of spinach and collards with a surprising kick, alitcha atakilti, meltingly soft stewed vegetables, and tsebhi dorho, spicy berbere braised chicken. I’d have a difficult time saying which was my favorite.
The mushrooms were redolent of tesmi, ghee flavored with onion, garlic, ginger and berbere. A fine savory pop of flavor, complemented by texture of the shredded zucchini.
Our entrees, Hamli (sautéed spinach and collards, $11), Alicha Atakilti (braised seasonal vegetables, $12), Zigini Beggie (lamb with tomato and onion, $17) and Ono Tsebhi (seared ono with squash and tomato, $21), were served family style on a huge platter covered with injera, the traditional Ethiopian flatbread. More rolls of injera decorated the sides. Made with teff flour, injera has pleasantly spongy texture, and a slightly tangy flavor. It’s dotted with tiny holes that are perfect for soaking up all the juices.
Entrees come with a side and a green salad, served on the platter with the rest of the dishes.
You can’t be tidy about eating this kind of food, you have to just rip off some injera, scoop it up and go for it.
The hamli and alicha atakilti were the same preparation as the filling in the sambusas, but they were so delicious that we didn’t tire of them. The ono was nicely prepared in flavorful tesmi, soft but not mushy, with a slightly fishy flavor that was not unpleasant. The zigini beggie was the least successful, the lamb was a bit overcooked, but the tomato and onion sauce provided some necessary moisture. The friendly, attentive staff happily provided as much injera as we needed.
After all that food, we couldn’t manage dessert, but the chocolate cake that our neighboring table ordered looked wonderful.
Muzita Abyssinian Bistro is located at 4651 Park Boulevard.
Monday - Thursday - 5 pm - 1 pm
Fri 11am – 2pm - Lunch
Fri 3pm – 11pm
Sat 3pm – 11pm
Sun 10am – 9pm