RE: WhereToEat: Cincinnati and N.Ky (open chat)
Emanu: The best new restaurant in Cincinnati
By Stepfanie Romine on July 20, 2008 5:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (0)
I take photos of food the way some people take photos of their kids. Every new dish I make or eat is recorded for future blogging purposes, and my boyfriend is now trained to pause before digging in when we sit down to dinner or are served at a restaurant.
Sometimes, however, food is so good that I simply forget to bring out the camera. Friday night was one of those cases.
Emanu, the much-anticipated East African/Ethiopian restaurant, in Pleasant Ridge has opened. Get there soon--because as soon as the word gets out, this place is going to be packed!
What is it?
Emanu opened some time last week, and you can tell they hoped to have a slow first couple of weeks. Some of the tables, while set with white linen, were still covered in plastic. A few decorative branches lingered in a corner, with the Ikea tags still attached. And with no liquor license yet, the bar served as a storage space.
Tough luck for the owners: The place is already a hit. The two servers were completely overwhelmed on Friday night, and a couple of diners walked out because they waited 10 minutes to get menus. Their loss--the food was amazing, and the service was great (although slow).
When I arrived at 6 p.m., I was one of three diners. By the time my friends arrived 30 minutes later, three more tables of two had arrived. An hour and a half later, when we were finishing up our meal, both sides of the dining room were packed with a diverse crowd. A Bible study group of 20 took up most of the back dining room, and couples of all ages were in the front room.
According to a friend of mine who lives in Pleasant Ridge, Emanu's owners formerly ran a restaurant down the street, so their former customer base had been waiting impatiently for the (re)opening. I can see why. Emanu is family owned and operated, and the food is amazing. During my half-hour wait for my friends (I mixed up our reservation time), I had time to linger over the menu and an Ethiopian coffee (at $1.50, it's thick and rich, served like Turkish coffee but tasting as fine as an Italian espresso.). Co-owner Sam Yhdego chatted with me for awhile and seemed thoroughly shocked that they were so busy on Friday. The two-page menu thankfully came with translations and descriptions, because I've only eaten Ethopian once a long time ago when I still ate meat. The menu offers three vegetarian stews (wats) and two varieties of beef, lamb and chicken: a wat and a tibs (saute).
We had one each of the vegetarian dishes: collard greens, lentils and cabbage each sauteed with spices and served on injara (the sour crepelike bread that's ubiquitous in Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine). Served family style on a large platters and extra injara, the dishes were spicy but not hot -- and affordable. For three of us, with appetizers, entrees and dessert, our bill was less than $50! Our other two friends shared two meat dishes and spent about the same per person. The food was amazing, and I was so distracted that I forgot to take a photo!
We planned ahead and brought our own wine--three bottles of it. Few other diners were in the know and looked longingly at our wine. Another word of warning: Emanu's credit card system hadn't been set up last weekend. It's cash-only--but there's an ATM across the street if you forget.
Who's it for?
Anyone who, like me, is tired of the same ethnic food options in Cincinnati. Take a group of friends and make a night of it. Eat Ethiopian style, with your right hand, using bits of injara to scoop up the tasty stews.
Appetizers: all are $3
Try the sambussas, fried meat or veggie filled dumplings that reminded us of samosas. The vegetable soup was hearty, dotted with pasta and rich in cumin. Get it!
Get a couple and share.
Desserts: Baklava and cheesecake, each $3. They don't seem to be homemade, but the vanilla bean cheesecake was tasty (the baklava was good but not outstanding). And for $3, the price can't be beat!
Finish the meal with Ethiopian coffee: $1.50.
Where is it?
6063 Montgomery Road, Pleasant Ridge.
Our lunchbunch is going there tomorrow - will let you know what we think shortly.