For those who’ve never tried it, Ethiopian food is a true culinary adventure. Long-simmering stews of lamb or chicken, beef tartars (called keftas), and grilled beef dishes (tibs) are dusted with a slow-burning spice mix called berbere, giving many dishes an eye-opening wallop. Onion, ginger, and cinnamon, important supporting characters, lend sweetness and depth of flavor. And because the Orthodox Ethiopian religious calendar requires numerous days be set aside for meat-free fasts, lentils, collard greens, potatoes, and other vegetables are the focus of a number of dishes, making this an excellent cuisine for vegetarians. Most fun of all, Ethiopian cuisine banishes the fork. Instead, your dishes are served on a pizza-sized round of injera, a winningly sour, spongy bread, that diners use to scoop up their meals. Yup, you get to eat with your hands! Though some might disagree, I’d say that Zoma serves the best Ethiopian in NYC, in a spare but elegant room.
- Pauline Frommer