Emanu East African
6063 Montgomery Rd.
Cincinnati, OH 45213
|Hours:||Tues – Sat Lunch: 11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Tues-Thurs Dinner: 4 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Sat Dinner: 4 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Sun & Mon: Closed
Appetizers: $4 – $5
Entrees (Lunch): $8 – $19
Entrees (Dinner): $12 – $22
It has been too long since we’ve had Ethiopian and we were determined to find a good place to find it in the Cincinnati area. We were so happy and excited to find Emanu East African in Pleasant Ridge. Finding parking was a bit more difficult than I had expected, since it is pretty much on-street only, but we were excited as we walked up to the restaurant.
It was a little past 11:30 a.m. and the restaurant had only been open for ten minutes or so, so I wasn’t surprised when there was only one other group of people when we arrived. The restaurant is tastefully decorated in light tans and browns, very earthy, and lots of posters of Ethiopia. There are two main sections in Emanu, the front and what I can only describe as the “back”. In the front there is the door and several tables, as well as a small bar where the tv and cash register are. Behind it is a big wall, and then more tables beyond it. We were seated in the back section, and the other table was situated in the front.
We ordered the Beef Sambusa to begin, which was four thin shells stuffed with minced beef, chilies, herbs and then lightly fried. They had a nice crunch to them and great flavor, however I kind of wish we had gotten another one or two. Mostly because we had waited what seemed like an eternity for them to come, and I feared another long wait until our main order came. Unfortunately I was right.
Our server was an elderly looking gentleman, not very friendly and not very steady either. When he brought out our entree, he was shaking and didn’t look like he could handle it very well.
For our entree we decided to get the “Meat Combo” called Hiswas (Beyaynetu), which is a mix of various meat entrees they have. Ethiopian food generally comes on a giant piece of spongey flat bread called Injera with the actual items in different piled sections on it. You get rolled injera on the side with which to grab your bites and chow down. Injera is made from Teff, which is gluten free, however many restaurants mix teff with regular white flour which kind of negates the gluten free bonus. I think you can tell when they use flour, since I’ve seen some injeras that are really gray (flour-free), and others that are yellowy-white like regular bread. Emanu’s were yellowy-white.
The particular mix we had was four different menu items: Tsebhi-Derho (Doro-Watt), Zigni (Sega-Watt), Ahmiti and Atkiti… I’ll go through those one-by-one…
Tsebhi-Derho (Doro-Watt) is chicken legs marinated in lemon and sauteed in a seasoned butter and sauteed in a thick red pepper sauce with onions, garlic, ginger, cardamom and nutmeg. There’s also a hardboiled egg in there too they don’t tell you about.
Zigni (Sega-Watt) is beef simmered in spiced butter, red pepper, onion, garlic, ginger and spices.
The Ahmiti and Atkiti are vegetarian dishes of collard greens cooked in vegetable oil with onions and peppers and cabbage in vegetable oil, onions and peppers.
Not listed on the menu was another item, that appeared to be carrots and peppers, fried in oil and spiced.
We liked every one of the items that came with our meal, some more than others, however overall we were a bit disappointed. While the flavors were good, they seemed really mellow and toned down from other Ethiopian restaurants we had been to. So, while the food was good, it didn’t have that extra oomph that it needed to be great or fantastic.
The beef and chicken were both cooked alright, but the egg was a bit overdone. The vegetables also were really good – of them the collard greens were my favorite.
We also ordered Ethiopian coffee – which was pretty good. I was a bit sad they didn’t use the Ethiopian coffee-making-contraption I’ve seen elsewhere, but what’s really important is the flavor and the coffee definitely tasted good.
I’m hoping that we just caught them on a bad day, since it took us nearly two hours to get our food and eat, and it seemed like the waiter was more interested in watching Rachael Ray on tv than actually serving. We waited for a while when we were done to get the check, but it never came and we were kind of in a hurry at that point, so we walked up and caught him off guard (he jumped) and paid right at the cash register. Maybe you are supposed to do that, but I’m not sure. Maybe we just caught them on a bad day.
Due to our being in a hurry, we also didn’t get to try the desserts on the menu, but if we ever come back to Emanu we will update our review of them. Overall the food was good, it just wasn’t great. Tasty and worth trying, but others have done it way better than Emanu.
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If you’ve been to Emanu, what did you think? Did we just catch them on a bad day? Or is this common? We sure hope not! Share your thoughts, suggestions and everything else in the comments below!
Verdict: They Have Potential
We’ll admit we were a bit put off by the lack of service at Emanu and our blatantly being ignored in favor of Rachael Ray, but the food was decent and would warrant a re-visit sometime. There’s some good flavors to the dishes, but they are a bit toned down from other Ethiopian restaurants we’ve been to. Items are moderately priced and aren’t super filling, but you probably wont leave hungry either.