My sister, our friend and I are prominent members of the “Sketchy Restaurant Club.” We are also the creators.
To belong to the club, you must meet with other members once a month or so and eat at an international restaurant that other, less radically awesome people might call sketchy (last time, our friend thought a man was going to kill us with a large knife, but it was really just tongs for refilling a customer’s hookah).
Yesterday we landed at a cozy little Ethiopian place, really just a house converted to a restaurant. The decor was primarily yellow with wooden chairs and woven basket tables. Nothing sketch about it.
When it came time to order, I chose kitfo, “steak seasoned with butter and spices.” A big draw of the dish was a side of homemade cottage cheese. And, you know, the butter.
After I made my order, the kind waitress paused, then said, “Are you new? You might want to order something else.”
I told her that yes, I was “new” to Ethiopian food, but that I’d eaten lots of Indian and Middle Eastern food, so it shouldn’t be too spicy.
Apparently spiciness wasn’t the problem. The waitress didn’t speak much English, though, so I couldn’t understand what the problem was except that it was steak cooked in butter instead of American sauce.
Again, I like my butter, so I told her I wanted it anyway.
When our food came out, it smelled amazing. The waitress dished it out in the traditional Ethiopian family style and supplied plenty of injera for us to use in place of forks. It was as she was dishing out the meat that I finally realized the problem.
Kitfo is kind of…not cooked very much (it’s more red than you can tell in this picture). And it’s also ground. The waitress thought I might not want it because Americans don’t normally eat raw hamburger. SHE WOULD BE RIGHT.
However, my pride and cheapness dictated that I at least try my food, so I bravely ate around seven bites and then spent the rest chowing down on my sister’s awaze tibs, contemplating death by E. coli.
Raw death aside, I was highly impressed by Ethiopian fare. Everyone else’s meat was tender and flavorful, although I didn’t enjoy the injera aside from it allowing for the meat to get from the plate to my mouth. But I suppose forks don’t taste good either.
Moral of the story: Don’t be a hero – listen to your waitress. But also take gastronomical risks! They mostly won’t kill you. Oh and eat internationally. You won’t regret it ;)