Week 6 – Fasika

One of my goals for this year has been to try new food and hit up restaurants that are off of the beaten path.  Well, thanks to an awesome tip from a friend (thanks again, Whitters!) Jamison and I were able to accomplish both last Saturday!  We went to an Ethiopian restaurant named Fasika near Hamline University’s campus.

I have never had Ethiopian food.  Hell, I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen seen ANY kind of African cuisine.  Do they base their meals on rice, similar to Asian cultures?  Do they have bread?  Something like the Indian dish naan?  Do they use lots of meats, veggies, spices?  I really had no idea what I was getting myself into.  And to be honest, the outside of the store didn’t make it look terribly impressive…

Now, the above picture is the street view of Fasika (it is the establishment on the corner if you can’t see the sign well).  What you don’t see is that around the corner (where we parked) is an empty lot full of dead grass and broken bottles.  Not exactly the kind of place you want next door to a raved about food joint.  But once we got inside, my opinion changed IMMEDIATELY

It smelt so good!  Like…wow.  The air was just full of spices and freshness.  I don’t know any other way to describe it.  It just smelled like an amazing kitchen.

It wasn’t an overly large restaurant, but there was ample space.  So after we were led to our table, we looked at the menu.  And sure enough, I had no idea what any of the things were based on their names.  They had a few small descriptions, but even in them, they used foods with names I didn’t recognize.  So first we ordered some Ethiopian tea to mull over our decision.

If anything, the tea fit right in with the atmosphere.  It tasted very similar to a chai but with even more of a spice flavor to it.  It made me ready to dive into the menu.

The only common word used throughout the menu options was “injera” which I took to be the sort of base for all of their meals.  I looked around at what people at other tables were eating to figure out if injera was a kind of rice, bread, or what.  It looked similar to naan, but very large and somewhat spongey.  Interesting.

Since I had no idea what I would be ordering, I thought I would just go all out crazy and order whatever would be the most difficult to pronounce.  Sounds reasonable, right?  Well, when I tried to order the Qunta Firfir, the waitress just gave me a shocked stare.  She asked, “Have you had that before?”

“No, I’ve never actually had any Ethiopian food before,” I admitted, somewhat bashfully.

“Well, do you like spicey foods?  Like hot things?”

“No, actually, I don’t handle hot spices that well.”

She gave me a stern look, which kind of surprised me.  “Well, then you aren’t going to order that.  You want the Tibs.  If you haven’t had Tibs, order the Tibs.  You’ll love it.”

“Um…ok.  Can I please have the Tibs?”

“Yes, you’ll love it.”

Apparently I wouldn’t be ordering the most challenging thing to pronounce.  Oh well.

After Jamison ordered some kind of chicken entree, we sipped our tea and conversed about times past and hopeful future adventures (we both realized we were interested in acupuncture but had no idea where to go.  Anyone know a place in the TC?).

After only like five minutes, our food arrived.  Speedy service at a sit down place is always nice!  And man…the plates were HUGE!

It was just…so big!  (that’s what she said).

What we were treated to was an amazing lunch.  The food was as delicious as it was large. Tibs is apparently cooked beef with peppers and onions in a delicious broth.  It also came with a small salad with a dressing similar to Italian, and of course injera.  Jamison’s was something like a chicken mix, paste, curry type thing with a hard boiled egg, some kind of a thick cottage cheese, injera, and a salad.

Jamison and I both barely ate half of our meals, which meant some amazing left overs for later in the week!  I for sure would recommend Fasika as a place for trying new food, or for great food in general!  I can’t wait for my next new food adventure!