Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Emanu: East African Restaurant

Emanu is one of my all time favorite restaurants in Cincinnati.  It's a family owned and run joint that serves up some delicious East African cuisine.  I always warn first-timers that the service is slow, and it is...but that's really what I love most about it (well, beside the awesome food)...you can sit and chat with friends and/or family and not feel the slightest bit rushed.  It's unpretentious and easy going, and that's what makes it special.  Each dish is made especially for you (that's why it takes so long) with the love and care that only Emanu herself can serve up.  And the food, the food is out-of-this-world delicious.  I personally think it's fantastic that Pleasant Ridge has such an interesting and eclectic restaurant at it's center, and I only hope that it's around for many many years to come.

I've been meaning to do a proper Emanu post for a while now, but sometimes always I tend to be a little lazy.  Well, I finally jumped on the opportunity this past weekend while Amanda was in town visiting.  Prior to her arrival she rattled off a list of all the places she wanted to go to when she came to Cincinnati (she might just be a tad homesick), and naturally Emanu was one of them.  Amanda and I used to go to Emanu any time we could when she lived here.  But sadly, I hadn't been for sometime...so I was really looking forward to dining there when she came. 

So, Saturday night Amanda and I headed over to Emanu, which happens to be just down the road from my house.  Shortly after we were seated my sister, who also lives just down the street, showed up and we got down to the business of ordering.  We started off with coffee, which is the wrong way to go about things.  In fact, coffee at Emanu is listed under desserts and don't be surprised if your server asks you "You want it before your meal!?" with a puzzled look on their face.  Usually, I have coffee at the end like you're supposed to, but I was tired after a long day of HLP visiting and I needed some caffeine.  And there isn't a better pick-me-up than Emanu's coffee.  It's thick and rich and strong, yet completely devoid of any bitterness that you might find in regular coffee.  But, like I said, it's strong...and that's why they serve it up in very small demitasse sized cups, that are so completely adorable.  Don't you think?


We also started off with an order of vegetarian (my HLP is a veg-head) and an order of beef sambussas.  They are kind of similar to Indian samosas, fried pastries filled with various veggies/spices/beef.
They are fried salty goodness on a plate and I love them.  The vegetarian are good (pictured above), although in the past when I've had them they've had a little kick to them.  But the beef are by far my favorite!

Ahh, delicious!

Now, everyone I know who's been to Emanu has their favorite entree.  Right off the bat, I fell in love with the Sega Tibs...marinated beef sauteed with onions, peppers and spices.  It makes my mouth tingle because it's a tad too spicy for me, but oh how I love it!  Amanda, prior to becoming a vegetarian, always got the chicken version, the Doro Tibs.  My sister wavers between the Beyaynetu (the vegetarian platter), which consists of spiced lentils, collard greens, cabbage, and carrots and beans, and the Chicken and Rice.  This time around, since she couldn't get her usual, Amanda went for the veggie platter and Michelle decided on the chicken and rice (with the agreement that she could snag a taste of Amanda's dish).  Behold:

Whenever you go to Emanu you can have your entrees served one of two ways, on a separate dish (aka how most American restaurants serve their food) or family style, where all the dishes are served together on one giant plate that is covered with a layer of injera.  Family style is my preferred way to go, not only because it's the traditional way, but because it's just tastier (more on that later).  Note: the chicken and rice is served on it's own separate plate since it is a rice dish, unlike the others.

Pictured above is Amanda's spiced lentils (misir watt) and collard greens (gomen) and my delicious sega tibs.

At the bottom, going counter-clockwise: carrots and beans (my second favorite of the veggie dishes), cabbage (my fav veg dish), yellow lentils, and red lentils (misir-watt).

Ahh, the injera.  For those of you who have never experienced injera it is kind of like a large spongy sour dough (yeast-risen) pancake...of awesomeness!  Now, they're not for everyone and they take some getting used to.  The first time I went to Emanu I remember thinking, "What the hell is this!?  It's weird!".  But then you start craving it, like a toddler craves apple juice, and it finds a way into your soul.  Injera is a magical thing, it's not only this strange sour floppy bread but it's also your fork!  With East African cuisine, you tear off bits of injera and use those bits to pick up your food... 

Behold!  The injera completely morphs the flavor of your meal and takes it to another place.  And, remember how I said that the family style way of ordering is the tastiest?  Well, that's because of that delicious layer of injera between your food and the plate!  It soaks up all those wonderfully spiced juices from your entree and then, after you've devoured your entree, you're left with this beautifully soaked layer of injera to polish off!  (This is the time when it's best to actually use a fork!)  This is by far, one of my favorite things in life...juice soaked injera!

 And then, if you're not completely stuffed after your meal, I highly suggest some delicious coffee and/or one of their fantastic desserts.  My favorite is the baklava, Amanda's is the pound cake and my sister is the cheesecake...but sadly, none of us had any room for dessert that night.  Next time!

1 comment:

Heather said...

Great post - I love Emanu and already shared your review with others. Great pics. My fav is the Chicken Doro Watt and the veggies!!!