I’m familiar with Ethiopian food as that was the culture I selected for a Culinary Arts graduate project at NYU. To serve for my presentation, I made all the foods from scratch, including the spicy doro wot (the berbere-seasoned chicken stew considered the national dish) and the injera (the sour, springy Ethiopian teff-based flatbread). I was flabbergasted that all other students brought in takeout for their projects!
Knowing the cuisine, I was looking forward to a trip to Harlem’s Tison Cafe for their Ethiopian and other Mediterranean foods. I tried their Kafa Martini, their version of the espresso martini. Although the menu described it as made with vodka, coffee and berbere (the Ethiopian spice blend), it was creamy. When I asked, I learned they had also added the Amarula cream liqueur.
We started with the malawach ($13.50), a flat crepe-like pancake made from phyllo that’s served topped with hard-cooked egg and with a sauce of jalapeños and grated tomatoes. This — like all Ethiopian foods — are eaten by hand. Also good are the filled samosas — one chicken, lentil and one filled with collard greens along with a thin yogurt-based sauce for dipping.
Next was the main event: both our doro wat ($23) and the sega tibs ($26 sauced cubed filet mignon), came served on the large round of injera. To round out the entree, the rim of the flatbread contained all the vegetarian sides: shiro (ground chicken peas), kik alicha (split peas), messer (red lentils), gomen (collard greens), beets and atakilt (cabbage, carrots and potatoes). We were also served a basket of rolled injera. To enjoy the dish, you just wrap the flatbread around some of the wot or veggies and pop into your mouth. With that, we sampled a quite tasty Ethiopian Rift Valley Merlot ($11).
I’d recommend a trip to this cozy cafe in Harlem, especially if you’ve never enjoyed Ethiopian foods. And, these, too, are made from scratch.