Where to Eat Ethiopian: Awash, Brooklyn, NYC
Do you fear bold flavors? Love a bland, predictable meal? Detest dishes crafted with care and love? Then do not read on. It’s not me, it’s you. We can’t be together. I do not have any food recommendations for you. This restaurant is the polar opposite of bland. A place that is especially for the lovers of deep flavor and those of us down for a food experience. Awash in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.
Time and time again this restaurant has filled me with good memories and well-spiced veggies. Let me begin with, if you’ve never ever had Ethiopian food before then this is a priority: get your phone out now, map your route to Awash and make a plan for dinner within the next 7 days. Just do that now so we don’t forget. Kthx.
Right, back to deeply flavored things. One of my favorite things about Ethiopian food is the sour, spongy, crepe-like bread called injera. If, in the last 18 months, you’ve discovered how much you love the flavor of sourdough breads then you are gonna love injera. Not only is it fascinating because it’s made with the world’s smallest grain, Teff, but the fermentation process imparts a punchy sourness that you won’t find in many other breads. Before cooking, the injera is thin enough to be poured, like a batter, and it is cooked on a wide griddle-like plate called a mitad. The result: a large, thin, fluffy bread, pocketed with small holes and a soft, stretchy, pillowy texture. The injera is rolled up and then cut in roughly 3 inch sections which you can tear and use as a dipping utensil. Unless, you’re eating off of it. Yes, not only is injera for scooping up delicious “wat/wot” (different stews) but the wot is served right on top of a huge whole piece of injera. Your injera is both plate and utensil, feel free to tear, scoop, eat and repeat.
I could go on about the eating process and how fun it is but that sounds a little much and I’ll let you discover that for yourself. So, before I let you in on my favorite stews and appetizers to order, let’s talk vibe, shall we?
The impression Awash gives you as you stroll up Court Street is that of warmth, community and activity. Almost like a chill beehive hitting its stride in midsummer. The outdoor seating is decorative, comfortable yet functional. It is not vast, which can give a corporate feel. Instead, there are about seven tables under umbrellas with charming string lights highlighting the scene. Perfect for an early fall dinner with two or three friends. Inside you’ll fold into a verdant blanket of gentle lighting, hanging greenery and bold paintings that display Awash’s Ethiopian core. Again, not a massive space but a far cry from cramped or narrow. It’s the kind of Brooklyn restaurant where you can have a perfectly cozy dinner alone with a nice glass of Ethiopian wine. That being said, I really think the beauty of Ethiopian food is how communal sharing from a platter can be. So bring a loved one who can appreciate complex, savory flavors, grab a cocktail and get ready to slow down time.
Awash is open for dinner Wednesday through Sunday with a special treat on Saturdays. You see, they open at 1pm on Saturdays and although they offer a lovely dinner service, I also suggest having lunch at Awash. It’s a comforting and casual meal in a whole different way.
What to order:
Appetizers are a must. Hear me out. Get the veggie or meat Sambussa. It’s hard not to love these pan-fried flaky pockets. Yeah, you’re going to be way too full but order this anyway, you won’t regret it.
For vegetarians and omnivores, you gotta get a combination platter. You can pick a platter and even make some additions. There is a meat combination, a chicken combination or a vegetarian. My ideal Awash visit includes a close companion and the vegetarian platter with an addition of beef Tibs Wot (that spicy berbere sauce is magic). They’ll ask if I want the tibs added right to the injera platter and the answer is “yes.” Then, the next 20 minutes is a frenzy of torn injera pinching up lentils, cabbage, carrots, tibs, beets, potatoes and the rest of the rainbow until only the final remnants of wot stained injera lay scattered about. Note: in these COVID times if you’re eating with another person and sharing a hand-eaten platter sounds less than desirable, they can arrange the same meal on two smaller, separate injera plates.
What I want to order next time but haven’t gotten yet:
Yetimatim Fitfit. An appetizer of diced tomatoes, red onion, avocado, chiles and other seasonings mixed with injera pieces. Spicy chiles, cooling avocado and sour injera? This just sounds delicious and fun.
Kitfo. Minced filet mignon served to preference! Like, really to preference. Anywhere from tartare to well-done, across a canvas of cottage cheese and collard greens. After tasting most of the other meats and veg at Awash, I imagine this dish is a real treat.
You can find Awash at 242 Court Street in Brooklyn or their other two locations in Manhattan.