Mike Madriaga 12:40 p.m., May 25
Ethiopia, San Diego, Part Six: Awash Restaurant
Stop six of the Ethiopian project is in Talmadge at a second restaurant named Awash, nicer than the first.
Silly me, thinking there was only one Ethiopian restaurant named “Awash!” Turns out there is another, much further out El Cajon Boulevard, at number 4997, to be exact, right next to the Last Call bar, where they serve discount shots anytime an ambulance goes by. Awash Ethiopian Restaurant (619-677-3754) is not to be confused with Awash Market. Actually, they’re easily confused, since the have the same name. But let the record show that there is a difference!
Awash Restaurant had the most enthusiastic staff of any stop thus far on the Ethiopian circuit. Like all the other places (other than the tourist-friendly Muzita), I suspect there are very few off-the-hook busy nights. Walking in, I got an effusive greeting and a barrage of questions from the cook/server/owner/hostess. Is it my first time eating Ethiopian food? Do I like my food spicy? How hungry and I? Do I like lamb?
Nope. Yes. Very. Yes.
I ordered a combination platter ($18.95), but I don’t think I got exactly that. My entree received a few artistic tweaks to “make it better,” about which I’m not complaining. It wasn’t quite the Mama Tam treatment, but I still had to go with the flow.
And go I did, right into the biggest serving of food I’ve yet received. First, I got a lentil sambusa with a smearing of hot chilli paste. Before I could even finish that, a massive plate of wot, salad, veggies, and tibs sat before me. It had to have been a solid kilogram of food, counting the injera.
And I ate it all. Every bite. Nearing the end, I was getting encouragement like an out-of-shape first-timer at the Rock and Roll Marathon. “Just do it! You can finish!”
Verdict? Lamb tibs were exceptional. Beef and chicken wot were both excellent as well. Rich, fearlessly spiced sauces surrounded succulent bites of meat. The stewed veggies on the side worked their way marvelously into the meat dishes, augmenting the rich gravies in just the right way.
After I finished all the food, seemingly on a whim, I got a little plate of roasted barley, which had a few peanuts in there. I’ve never tried this snack food, but it would have been great with a cold beer.
Last weekend, I didn’t even know Awash Restaurant existed. Now, it’s in the running for a strong finish in this impromptu Ethiopian restaurant showdown of mine. It just goes to show what you can get if you just eat around town and see what turns up.