There is something very appealing about Ethiopian and Eritrean food; the little dollops of spicy stews served atop injera and of course, eating with your hands. While I  look for Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurants in my travels, they are usually sparse save NYC or SF. So, it surprised me to find that sister had booked an Eritrean restaurant for her birthday. In Ohio.

Emanu is a casual  venue located in the Pleasant Ridge area of Cincinnati. Inside is polished up for a place serving East African fare, which in my experience has typically been tantamount to eating in someone’s house. Comfortable wood tables and chairs are spaced widely about the soft modern space; floor to ceiling windows creates a pleasant connection to the park across the street. Make no mistake that soccer is front and center; the flat screens will be airing the games and the big poster on the wall will be keeping track of the scores. Those boys about the bar, they are not talking about women, they are reliving highlights or lowlights depending on the fate of their favourite teams.

The spicy stews here are  vegetarian, chicken, lamb and beef. All were good but the veggie versions were better than the meat, particularly the yellow lentil misr wot – thick, creamy and the Berbere spice came shinning through without obfuscating the delicate, nutty flavour of the lentils. One might almost think the owners are vegetarians themselves.

The injera was light, moist without being sticky and slightly sour. I’ve tried repeatedly to make injera at home with absolutely no success, so I totally appreciate folks who can make this spongy, fermented bread to perfection.

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Its possible our experience was an anomaly but the owners continually brought out items for us to try on the house. The magic words seemed to be ‘I’ve never tried …’ which resulted in the item appearing. Very knowledgeable  and extremely personable without becoming intrusive.

Reasonable. 6 mains, 2 apps, 1 cheesecake, round of coffee/tea – $120

Niece and sister were so impressed with Emanu that they secretly scheduled yet another birthday celebration there later this year. I can see why and I’m likely to secretly crash that party if only for the yellow lentil misr wot.

Lunch: June 2014

Emanu | 6063 Montgomery | Cincinnati, OH

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