Ethiopia Restaurant Review (Berkeley, CA)

Last week my 16-yo daughter actually got a craving for Ethiopian food. We don’t eat Ethiopian food very frequently – maybe once or twice a year now -, so it was a surprising craving in her part. And as she said, how privileged is she that she gets to have a craving for Ethiopian food and have it satisfied.

We decided on Ethiopia Restaurant in Berkeley because they have a great Groupon deal: two appetizers, four entrees, two desserts and four glasses of wine for just $40. You need to add tax and tip, but I can’t imagine anywhere else you can get a deal anywhere as good as this (if you know of one, let me know!).

We had been to Ethiopia Restaurant before, and this time it didn’t disappoint either: the food was just delicious. We started with the sambousas, the Arab/African version of Indian samosas: triangles of phillo-dough style pastry, filled with either lentils or meat, fried and served with a red sauce. They were pretty good.

My 16-yo ordered the nene’wee, a sampler of 5 vegetarian dishes you pick from 12 choices. She absolutely loved the yekik alicha, a yellow split pea dish that they also serve as a side for other dishes. Next time, she may just order this. She was happy enough with the kinche (bulgur), but the other three dishes she chose were too spicy for her. The engudai we’t, a mushroom “stew” (actually mushrooms cooked in a butter or oil based sauce), tasted very much like t’ibs wet, its beef version. The sauce was exactly the same. The yemisier we’t (red lentils) and shiro we’t (garbazo beans) seemed to have different sauces, but they were equally spicy.

The meat-eaters among us ordered the yebeg alicha (lamb “stew”), yebeg t’ibs (sauteed lamb) and the meat combo which comes with doro we’t (chicken “stew”), t’ibs wet and yebeg alicha. They brought the first two dishes in a huge tray, on top of injera, but they forgot to add the third – so the tray looked very empty. It wasn’t until we were finished with the food that we were able to reach out to call the waitress and have her bring the meat combination (we were still hungry, so we needed it). I got the distinct impression that you get more food by ordering your meal individually rather than family style, so next time we’ll do that.

All of us really liked the yebeg dishes, though one of us had to be told it was beef for her to try it (here is hoping she doesn’t read this review). We particularly liked the sauteed lamb dish. The t’ibs and doro wet dishes were both spicy, though my husband enjoyed them. The rest of us are wimps.

Whether individual or family style, dishes are served with the split pea stew outlined above and a simple salad of lettuce, tomatoes and onions. We ordered a bowl of rice which my daughter didn’t like (my husband tasted it and said it had butter in it), but which they didn’t charge us for. The injera is made with teff and was cold, but otherwise good.

For dessert, one of my daughters had the baklava, which was a pretty small piece, and the other the chocolate mousse pie. They both seemed happy.

I had a glass of the chardonay, which was sweet but good. My daughter had a sparkling apple cider – they didn’t charge us for that either, but we declined the 3 other glasses of wine.

Service was good and friendly, but the two waitresses were overwhelmed with the full dining room – that’s why it was very difficult to get their attention during the meal.

Groupon says you can buy a voucher for this deal every 30 days, so I’m planning to go again next month.

Ethiopia Restaurant
2955 Telegraph Ave
Berkeley, CA
(510) 843-1992
M-Su 11:30 AM – 10 PM
http://orderethiopiarestaurant.com







Zachary’s Pizza – Review

Zachary’s Pizza has, without doubt, the best pizza in the Bay Area. Indeed, probably the world. I’ve never really had pizza in Chicago (whose pizza Zachary’s tries to imitate), but I just can’t imagine how it could be any better.

Zachary’s offers two types of pizza: thin and stuffed. I have never had the thin pizza and I never will (that would seem to me to be a waste of a visit to Zachary’s), so I can’t comment about it. The stuffed pizza, however, is heavenly. What you get is more a cheese pie than a pizza. A bottom layer of dough is covered with tons of cheese (but I always order extra-cheese anyway) and toppings and then topped by another layer of dough. This whole thing is covered by stewed tomatoes. The description, however, doesn’t do justice to the result. You really need to try it to know why it rocks.

Zachary’s has two locations, one on Solano in North Berkeley and the other in Rockridge. They both have an eat-in section which are fairly nice. The walls tend to be decorated with children’s drawings of Zachary’s pizza. Getting a table is usually very hard, specially during peak eating hours. You have to be prepared to wait (or go, put your name down and stroll through the neighborhood). They don’t take reservations, but you can pre-order your pizza when you put your name down, so that it’s ready once you your table is ready.

What we usually do is get take-out (Zachary’s doesn’t deliver, it also doesn’t take credit cards, it’s a cash-only place). We live a 20-minute drive away from the closest Zachary’s (the one in Rockridge) but the pizza is still warm by the time we get it here. My favorite pizza is the plain cheese (with extra cheese), though last time we had one with Canadian bacon and pineapple that was also very yummy. Mike prefers the ones with toppings. His favorite is the Mexican chorizo, a spicy pizza with green chiles and Monterrey Jack cheese. We had both of these last Thursday night and we were all very pleased. A large pizza has 8 slices. We usually each eat two slices for dinner or one for lunch.

It usually takes 40 minutes for the pizza to be ready so order accordingly. I’ve found that the leftovers microwave well, but make sure not to overheat it. I use 2 minutes on high but I have an old microwave.

2011 Update It’s been 20 years since we started going to Zachary’s pizza (and 7 years since my review) and Zachary’s continues to make wonderful, delicious stuffed pizza. From time to time they add more varieties to their menu and prices, of course, go up.  Last night we had their Carne stuffed crust pizza ($28 for a large), which comes with Italian sausage, pepperoni, salami, chopped bacon and mozzarella. It wasn’t my favorite.  There were too many toppings, they were too salty altogether, and they didn’t let the flavor of the cheese shine through.  It was still a great pizza, but not as good as their plain cheese pizza (still my fave).  Zachary’s has added a new location in San Ramon now, which we haven’t been to. They take reservations there.

Zacchary’s Pizza
5801 College Ave.
Oakland, CA
510-655-6385
Sun-Thur: 11am-10pm
Fri-Sat : 11am-10:30
http://www.zacharys.com/

Marga’s Restaurant Reviews