Ethiopian Flavors Arrive In Honolulu
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Nearly five months ago, husband-and-wife team Abraham and Fay Samuel embarked on a mission to transport locals’ taste buds to the streets of their homeland by opening the first Ethiopian eatery in the state.
Aside from a daily coffee ceremony during lunchtime, Ethiopian Love Restaurant stays true to Ethiopian culture in that all dishes are served family style — meaning one plate for the family. The hands-on experience starts with the foundation of Ethiopian food: injera. Every dish is served atop homemade injera, a spongy sourdough flat-bread made of teff grain.
“One good thing about our food is it is good for everyone: vegans, vegetarians, meat-lovers, children,” says Fay. “Our restaurant is very multicultural — we see many different types of people and it is very family oriented.”
To introduce your palate to the foreign tastes of Ethiopia, try Awaze Tibs. The popular dish features beef that is slow cooked for a few hours with caramelized onions, garlic, ginger, tomato and Berbere, a red pepper that yields a light spice to the dish.
Doro Wot is another slow-cooked dish, but it includes chicken. The tender chicken is made with stewed tomato, onion, turmeric and Kebe, Ethiopian clarified butter.
For a meatless option, try the Ethiopian Love Veggie Sampler, which features a combination of vegetarian dishes. This week’s Sampler highlights spicy red split lentils, yellow split peas, cabbage, potato stew, brown lentil salad, beet salad and chickpea stew and salad.
For a unique take on Lamb, you can’t go wrong with Lamb Tibs. The chunks of lamb are sautéed with onion, garlic, rosemary and Kebe.
“Our lamb is not like any other lamb that’s prepared,” says Abraham. “The aftertaste is not there because of the clarified butter. It brings out a different flavor of the lamb.”
Asa Dullet is one of the newest additions to the menu, and it’s the only seafood dish. White fish is sautéed with Kebe, onion, cardamom, green pepper and Ethiopian chili powder.
“It’s popular with our customers because the fish has a bite to it — it’s spicy,” says Abraham. “The clarified butter brings out the spicy seasoning, which is a really rich powder.”
Everyone can take pleasure in this ancient yet exotically delicious fare, whether under the stars of the outdoor seating area or within the brick walls of the restaurant adorned with artwork and 1970s Ethiopian jazz playing in the background. Eating at Ethiopian Love is an experience that enthralls all the senses.
Ethiopian Love Restaurant
1112 Smith St., Honolulu
Lunch: Monday-Saturday, 11 A.M. To 2 P.M.
Dinner: Daily, 5-10 P.M.