Nick's Picks: Abyssinia

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Photo by Kate Melton

Injera bread is at the heart of almost every Ethiopian meal. Made by mixing teff flour with water then fermenting for several days before being baked into large flat circles, this light, thin, spongy creation acts as an edible utensil used for grabbing meat, vegetables, legumes, and anything else on one’s plate.

Getting your hands dirty at the dinner table is a concept familiar to foodies with experience eating Ethiopian cuisine. However, with only a handful of local Ethiopian restaurants, this custom, along with the country’s cuisine in general, is largely unexplored for most Rochesterians.

Originally opened in 2000 by the husband and wife team of Daniel Tekilu and Aster Menghsa, Abyssinia has been doing its part to expose local residents to the intense flavors of Ethiopia for nearly two decades. While first operating on University Avenue, Abyssinia is now Located in the Mount Hope Plazawhich is somewhat of a multicultural culinary beacon between its Asian grocery and Chinese, Vietnamese, Lebanese, and Ethiopian restaurants.

Within Abyssinia’s low-key, dimly lit dining room, diners can expect perfectly executed versions of the East African country’s healthy, aromatic, flavorful signature dishes. Wat is a popular Ethiopian stew made with red onion as base, clarified butter, a variety of vegetables, a protein, and berberea blend of spices which includes chili peppers, garlic, and basil. Abyssinia offers chicken wat, lamb wat, and vegetarian options with split peas or lentils. Somewhere between a stew and stir-fry is tibs, a sautéed mix of meat and vegetables that is served on injera bread. Abyssinia has a couple versions of tibs that vary in degrees of spice from mild to fiery. Diners can choose from either chicken, lamb, or beef tibs, each typically garnished with onions, peppers, and tomato.

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