Thursday, September 28, 2006

Miami Restaurant Review: Sheba Ethiopian

Sheba Ethiopian Restuarant
4029 North Miami Ave.
Design District

Ethiopian cuisine presents uncharted territory for most diners. It hasn't quite caught on like the exotic exports of other far off locales. Like the African continent itself, it is often only the adventurous, the unfearing, who brave the mysterious depths of this ancient culture and emerge from the experience having encountered something new, and perhaps gratifying. So it was with Conradian courage that we ventured upon the Design District to sample the cuisine of Miami finest Ethiopian restaurant. I was already a professed fan of the spicy and filling cuisine - while in San Francisco I frequented a great Ethiopian dive in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood and on recent trips to Israel have added Ethiopian restaurants established by new immigrants in Jerusalem to my dining rotation there. I was familiar with spongy "Injera" bread used to scoop up the usually mushy, stewy consistency of most Ethiopian dishes and was looking forward to a refreshing Castel beer. I approached Sheba with high expectations and was not disappointed. Everything about the restaurant - from the gorgeous African textiles and small gallery boasting sculptures and crafts to the gracious and accommodating service, to the exquisitely prepared food was delightful.

Our lunch consisted of a starter of "zaalouk," diced eggplant sauteed with ginger, lemon, cumin, and garlic. Superbly spiced and cooked, this dish was fantastic proof that this versatile vegetable can work with any food genre, from Japan to Africa. For main courses we opted to try several vegetarian dishes (since each entree comes with 2 vegetarian sides). Standouts included the "ful," fava beans cooked with tomatoes, onion, and hot green peppers, and "mesir wat," lentils cooked with onions and garlic, each with adequate spice and sauce to provide enough kick to the delicious beans. Other choices of collard greens and "atakilt wat," mixed vegetables of potatoes, cabbage, and carrots provided textural difference and a welcome low-spice respite from the fiery counterparts on the platter. Accompanied by generous portions of injera bread and washed down with a cold Haitian beer (they were out of Ethiopian varieties that day), and you have a happy dining excursion.


mkh said...

I love Sheba, and should go out of the way to eat there more often.

sara said...

Agreed! I'd like to check out their live music nights - I think it's every Tuesday or Thursday.