Awash – My Entree into Ethiopian Food

Just when I think I know everything, that I have tried every food out there and have nothing more to learn or see in the gastronomic world, something new comes up and smacks me in the face.
Case in point…Awash.

Awash is a small restaurant on the UWS that serves Ethiopian food. I feel like I am the only person who has not tried it – well, the only one who HAD not tried it. So, when this small restaurant (heated to at least 85 F) could seat me late one night, I was ready to sit down and tuck in.

I have heard that Ethiopian restaurants are usually casual, communal affairs and I was envisioning a much more diner-like atmosphere. But this was nicely decorated linen tablecloths, and though it is clearly relaxed, it’s not at all “divey.” This is a great place for a date with an adventurous eater(I mean, I was so warm in that overheated restaurant that I almost took my shirt off – what bodes better for a date than that?).

The one thing it doesn’t have – silverware. You eat everything with your fingers and a stretchy, thin, spongy pancake called Injerea, that is faintly tangy, like sourdough. So wash up before you start to eat.
These meat filled fried pastries were my first clue that I was going to love Ethiopian food. The ground meat was spicy and incredibly savory. It had the cool edge of mint, the bite of onions, a spice from chili powder, and a myriad of other spices that made it sweet, savory, warming and lip tingling. It was similar to Indian and Moroccan food in the multiple taste sensations that were going on, but it had some earthy spices that were all its own.  The meat itself was tender and encased in a crisp, greaseless pastry that was similar to that of a samosa. Served with a bracing, vinegary mustard sauce to cut the fat of the beef, it was a delicious appetizer.

Special Kifto

Lean ground beef, jalapenos, and onions, served with Ethiopian butter and spices(mitmita). Served with Collard Greens and Lentils
The collard greens were fine, I’m sure. The lentils were probably great. Who the hell knows, really? Because I could not tear my fingers or tongue away from the kifto. This Ethiopian steak tartare was…dare I say it?…in contention for my favorite steak tartare in the city. Nothing like the traditional version, this had a medium grind, and was laced with rather sweet onions, crunches of very hot jalapeno, and a spice mixture that, while zesty, was warming and smoky rather than tingly-front-of-the-mouth hot. Most of that heat came from the jalapeno, which made the meat taste sweeter and grassier, made the sourdough taste more tangy, made the whole dish fuller and more delicious. The butter was not apparent, which is a great thing – it let the meat shine through as the main component without being greasy or heavy. This was a myriad of flavors – tender beef, spongy injera, crunchy veggies, and scoops of soft vegetables. Really, I can’t say enough wonderful things about this. You can get the mixture lightly sauteed if you are that sort of wimp.You can get the regular Kifto, too – that is the Kifito in the middle of the injera, and it was just great. But there is something about a meal that has mucus running out of my nose that really earns my respect. So stick with the special Kifto. And be aware – you will not be able to finish this.

We couldn’t, and we did our BEST.

Awash is a stand up restaurant – cheap, large portions, delicious food, and service that is…well, the service is sort of laughable. Not rude, but not what I would call…speedy. But the food is so great that I don’t even care. I am officially obsessed with Ethiopian food. It’s spicy, it’s raw, you eat it with your hands.
And we all know that’s how I like my food and my men.
Awash on Urbanspoon


  1. Sippity Sup says:

    My first taste of Ethiopian too was in NYC. Not UWS though mine was somewhere down in GV. GREG

  2. Fritos and Foie Gras says:

    @Sippity-I think there is an Awash in GV, actually! It would be so funny if they were the same ones!