Sunday, March 14, 2010

Queen of Sheba

For the second installment of the New Year's Resolution Restaurant Series, I'll write about Queen of Sheba, in Chapel Hill. The restaurant, situated among the many fine restaurants in Timberlyne shopping center, serves Ethiopian fare.

I'd never tried Ethiopian food before, so my first visit was particularly exciting. Unfortunately, I was coming down with a cold, so I didn't think that my tastebueds or olfactory senses appreciated it nearly as much as I had hoped. We ordered two meat dishes, Yedoro Watt, chicken, and Minchetabesh, beef. We also ordered a vegetarian combination for one, which included four different salads and a red lentil dish, Yesmir Kay Watt. Yedoro Watt is the national dish of Ethiopia, so my dining companions definitely thought I should give that a try. It was delicious, with the meat falling off the bone, which is good when you don't have any eating utensils. This is obviously the place to go during a drought, because there are fewer items to go in their dishwasher.

For those of you who haven't eaten Ethiopian food either, it is served on and with injera, which is a spongy flatbread made from teff, traditionally grown in Ethiopia. The texture reminds me strongly of a sea sponge or some other sea creature, but it's the perfect compliment to all the dishes. You tear off small pieces and attempt to pick up the food, which is generally a pureed and mushy substance, for a lack of a more appetizing phrase coming to mind. On my second visit, I learned that it makes sense to use as small pieces of injera is possible, so you don't fill up on the bread.

Google Earth Evangelist (GEE) is the one who gave me this sage advice (although recently she's become more of a Poll Everywhere Evangelist, but I won't be using that acronym) when she joined me there last week. We started off with Ayib Begomen as an appetizer. This is made with a special cottage cheese made from buttermilk curds, hot pepper and herbs. This was extremely good.

We followed that with two vegetarian dishes, the red lentil dish that I liked best during my previous visit, Yesmir Kay Watt, and Atkilt Watt, green beans with carrots and potatoes. I loved the red lentils and they tasted much more flavorful when I could smell them. Our meal also came with two sides, which are the chef's choice. We had a Yeshimbera, which is a bright yellow chickpea salad with onions, lemon juice and olive oil and Yeavocado, an avocado and tomato salad. Both sides were excellent, but I thought the Yeshimbera was absolutely wonderful. Fortunately, GEE didn't like it all that much, because of the all the onions, so there was a lot more for me.

Overall, I'm eager to go back yet again. Their menu describes the restaurant as welcoming and friendly and that is a very accurate description. The chef and owner, Friesh Dabei, lights up the cozy restaurant with her smile and frequently visits the table to ensure a positive dining experience. I'm hoping to go there for lunch on a Saturday, because that would be the only time when I could try their Ethiopian coffee without staying up more than half the night.


  1. Anonymous7:46 PM

    A favorite restaurant of ours, although we don't get there as often as we should. That top photo says it all, Lenore. If you haven't tried the sambusas, you need to. They are wonderful.
    BTW - You're gonna love the coffee.

  2. Hooray for your first! May you have many more.

  3. The pictures don't do it justice - but does stew ever look good, really? Only when it's in a fancy bowl! I'll have to try the Ayib Begomen and Yeshimbera next time.

    I also agree that the coffee is a treat. It's like spiced candy!

  4. one of the many reasons i always skip my tasks on my access scheduler is because im indulging in good food like this..

    way to the recipes here