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Nile Ethiopian Restaurant & Cafe: It's finger lickin' good
When I say finger lickin' good, I don't mean that certain chain of faux fried chicken restaurants, rather it's something much better. Nile Ethiopian Restaurant is a cozy, neighbourhood style restaurant in the Fan district near Virginia Commonwealth University. Usually, restaurants such is this in university neighbourhoods are affordably priced to cater to the student body. In terms of decor, I was most impressed with the mural on the outside of the restaurant (painted by VCU students): befitting this Bohemian neighbourhood. They encourage customers to eat with your fingers, Ethiopian style, but will give you silverware if you insist. I prefer to immerse myself in a new cultural experience. All entrees are served with injera bread, a sourdough bread with a crepe consistency. Sadly, Lee isn't keen on it, but that means more for me next time. The thing to do is to rip of a piece of the bread and scoop up whatever is on the plate with it. The aroma was like nothing we had ever smelled before. There was African music playing in the background. Our waitress was attentive and seemed to be impressed that folks like Lee and me would eat the food in the traditional way. The yellow brick walls were adorned with Ethiopian posters, musical instruments, and even the alphabet for the Amharic language. There is a nice sized bar for an evening on the town. Here, you get some good food and a unique cultural experience. Lee and I came back about a year later to take our friend Bill out for his birthday. He really enjoyed his first go of Ethiopian food.
Hours: Monday - 5:30pm-11:00pm Tuesday - Friday - 11:30am-2:30pm lunch; 5:30pm-11:00pm supper Saturday - 11:00am-11:00pm Sunday - 12:00pm-9:00pm
Favorite Dish: Lee and I had a sampler platter for two which consists of Doro Wat: Chicken cooked in butter-sauteed onion seasoned with garlic, fresh ginger, berbere and herbs simmered until tender. Key Wat: Cubed prime beef cooked in onion, ginger, garlic, kibe (purified butter) and berbere. Atkelt Wat: Green beans and carrots cooked in a mild caramelised onion sauce. Yebeg Tibs: Tender lamb seasoned with onion, green pepper, garlic and ginger. Misir Wat: Lentils cooked slowly in berbere sauce with a blend of spices. Gomen Wat: Collard green cooked sauteed with onion, fresh garlic, ginger roots, and a blend of Ethiopian spices. Of course, there was plenty of injera bread on the side to grab the abovementioned and the platter was lined with more of the bread so you can fold up the whole thing so as not to waste even a crumb. After that point, I had all I could take, but Lee saved up room for cheesecake for dessert. I liked most everything except the lentils were a little flat. The chicken and beef were rather spicy with that berbere sauce made from red chili pepper, but not enough to overpower it. My favourite thing had to be the lamb and the collard greens. The second time out, I missed lunch so I was hungry. When Bill and Lee finished eating, I made sure nothing went to waste.
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- Food and Dining
Nile Ethiopian Restaurant & Cafe: Life without Silverware
The first time Nat brought me here in April, 2005, I wasn't real sure about this place. Yeah, it has a pretty mural on the outside, but I go to school near here and I know it's a sketchy neighborhood. Nat pointed out that in college neighborhoods, restaurants like to keep the prices affordable for the students. I wasn't sure about the food and Nat hadn't tried it before either. How are you going to know you don't like it unless you try it? We both loved it! I was impressed at the African decor and the smells of the different spices they use coming from the kitchen. What surprised me even more than the fact that they don't give you silverware- you have to eat it with your fingers- is that they sweeten your tea with cranberry juice, not sugar. I tried it, but I don't really care for that injera bread, at least not by itself. We went back again a year later to take our friend Bill out for his birthday.
Favorite Dish: Both times we were there, we ordered the sampler platter which consists of several different kinds of meat (chicken, beef, and lamb) and some vegetables (collard greens, green beans, and cabbage) served over that injera bread. Ethiopian cuisine is a little spicy, but not as much as Thai, Indian, and some Jamaican. It was one of those restaurants that was so good you talk about it all the way home. When we took Bill, he and I weren't as hungry as Nat. He didn't have any lunch so he ate most everything in sight. In case you don't believe Nat is a glutton, he almost folded up everything left on the plate in injera bread and had himself a kind of Ethiopian taco. He left there like the guy on the Alka Seltzer commercial saying, "I can't believe I ate the whole thing." The pictures will show he sure did.
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