Blue Nile Ethiopian Restaurant | Houston Zagat Winner
Adventure in Dining
Sometimes when watching television, and in particular the Food Network, my curiosity is sparked as to tasting world cuisines of which I am unfamiliar.
This happened recently because of listening to Melissa d’Arabian (who won season 5 of Food Network Star) describing the dish called Doro Wot on “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” when singling out “Finger Foods.”
It made me want to try it. This is what led my journey accompanied by a good friend to the Blue Nile Ethiopian Restaurant in Houston, Texas.
My friend is also an adventurous soul when it comes to sampling foods of which she is unfamiliar, so we decided to share a lunch together.
Sharing is the operative word because this was to be a communal finger food experience.
Obviously clean hands are desired before beginning a meal such as this. After watching the television program I made sure to have some wet wipes in my purse just for some extra cleansing purposes. They were utilized…in fact, several of them!
Located outside of the 610 Loop, this family owned restaurant was opened in 1994 and has been rated many times by Zagat as well as Houston Chronicle newspaper readers as being representative of fine award winning Ethiopian cuisine.
It is in a nondescript commercial strip shopping center with paintings on the exterior glass representing scenery found in the country of Ethiopia.
East of Gessner and on the north side of the street, the address is 9400 Richmond Avenue, Houston, Texas 77063-3930.
Once they open their doors at 11AM on weekdays and at 9AM on Saturdays and Sundays, they remain open until 11PM each evening. Reservations can be made by calling 713-782-6882.
When my friend and I entered the doors it was like entering into another world. Exotic aromas of incense and spices tantalized our senses.
Warm colored walls were adorned with various types of Ethiopian art. Some of it was framed and presented under glass and some of it appeared tethered to wooden sticks.
Other artistic touches included some hand carved pieces and musical instruments which were mixed into the décor along with basketry and pottery.
A beautiful young woman greeted us in a very friendly and warm welcoming manner.
She was dressed in what I assume is native costuming…a long white dress with some African appearing embellishments which conformed nicely to her tall and slender body.
Our pretty and convivial hostess led us to a white clothed table with white cloth napkins and comfortable wooden chairs.
After looking around at the ethnically inspired nicely decorated room, we started to peruse the items on the menu none of which were familiar to us.
Categories included vegetarian as well as meat items.
Obviously Doro Wat, being the food item viewed and shown on The Food Network, was on my list of items to try. Other than that, I had no idea what might be appealing.
Our hostess who was also our server that day came to the rescue. When she found out that this was our first time to visit the restaurant much less try any Ethiopian food, she suggested that we try the Vegetarian Sampler and the Meat Sampler.
It would be presented all together on one plate for my friend and I to share. We agreed that this was probably a smart move and decided to take her up on her suggestion.
Vegetarian and Meat Lover’s Delight
Food items served to us on that one large platter included the following:
- Gomen (chopped collard greens with garlic and green pepper)
- Atkilt Wot (a cabbage potato mixture that we found pleasing)
- Yemissir Wot (a good tasting red lentil preparation)
- Green lentils prepared with oil, onions and spices
- Kik Alicha (split peas…ours were yellow split peas with onion & spices)
- Doro Wot (the chicken in berbere sauce that lured us to this restaurant)
- Alicha Minchetabish (minced beef with spices)
- Yessiga Wot (beef cubes in berbere sauce & special herbs and spices)
- House Salad (lettuce leaves with tomato lightly dressed in oil & vinegar)
- Green Beans with onion, garlic, chopped tomatoes and pieces of carrot
As one can probably tell from this listing, my friend and I were not about to go hungry on this particular day!
Just what is Doro Wot? It is chicken prepared in a berbere sauce.
There are many recipes for berbere sauce and Doro Wot that can be found online. Berbere sauces ready made can also be purchased if one has access to stores selling international ingredients.
Suffice it to say that berbere sauce and therefore the chicken dish called Doro Wot is a rich and sumptuously sauced entrée with loads of ingredients rounding out those robust flavors. While some hot peppers are included, it was not overly spicy to our taste-buds.
On the table was a salt shaker and also one filled with a red substance that we determined had some cayenne pepper and perhaps other spices which would have turned up the heat if utilized.
The Doro Wot featured on The Food Network was from a restaurant in Los Angeles and the chef took much time and lots of stirring in its preparation.
Whether prep time in the Blue Nile restaurant in Houston requires a similar long time (or not) in making this dish, one thing that my friend and I agreed upon was that it is delicious.
This spongy crepe-like bread called Injera sat as a base under all of our food selections and was also served to each of us on separate plates to utilize in place of cutlery.
Using our fingers and this bread to scoop up the food is what truly makes dining at the Blue Nile Ethiopian Restaurant an occasion to be remembered.
One simply tears off little pieces of this spongy creation and uses it to pick up pieces of whatever one might be eating. Since this is a communal dining affair, this is where the clean hands and general respect with regard to manners and hygiene come into play.
We did see one diner who was eating his meal with a fork, so obviously it can be requested. Most other diners, like us, were using the Injera bread as intended.
Injera is made from the smallest grain in the world called Teff. Teff is very high in protein and also contains calcium, iron and fiber as well as all 8 amino acids useful in human health (among other attributes) so it is a very healthy food source.
Starting out much like sour-dough bread, injera is fermented thus giving the final product a slightly sour taste. My fellow dining companion said that she could happily munch on Injera anytime just by itself. We both found it to be interesting and pleasing to our taste buds.
Ethiopia and the Blue Nile
The area of Ethiopia is one of the earliest locations on earth for humankind. The human race is said to have originated in that locale and gradually spread out from there to the rest of the world over time.
The Blue Nile which is one of the major tributaries of the Nile River, some think originated in the Garden of Eden.
Ethiopia has a rich history and beautiful natural surroundings.
Three of the world’s major religions all reside there. Christians, Muslims and Jewish people follow their creeds with the Christians being in the majority.
Getting to spend a bit of time in an Ethiopian restaurant like Houston’s Blue Nile which has Ethiopian music softly playing, Ethiopian art adorning the floors and walls with typical Ethiopian food upon which to feast is like getting to enjoy a small microcosm of the large country of Ethiopia on the other side of the world.
At least it will have to suffice for me since no travel plans are in the making for a trip to Ethiopia any time in the foreseeable future.
Iced water with lemon was automatically served at our table and we chose to also have some Ethiopian tea instead of regular iced tea to accompany our lunch.
It was served in a footed glass mug with fragrantly scented hot water and a teabag of Ethiopian tea which we brewed to the strength we desired.
For those familiar with Chai tea, the mugs of Ethiopian tea had a similar flavor we decided…slightly spicy with a hint of sweetness.
Much of our food was left and we divided it between us in two take home containers after we had eaten all that we could of this spicy and delicious lunch.
What we experienced is that the Injera bread underlying the various dishes becomes infused with the different flavors and is scrumptious all on its own.
Thus nothing goes to waste with this meal except for the chicken bone from the Doro Wot.
Needless-to-say our appetites were sated that day but in reading about the Blue Nile restaurant there is another experience I hope to have on another occasion.
They have a coffee ceremony for a price of $20 in which one gets to participate in the pan roasting of the coffee beans as well as the grinding and brewing.
Considering that one of Ethiopia’s greatest exports is coffee and they are well known for the quality of their beans, this sounds like it might be fun and a different way to spend part of a day.
Below is a video showing some of Ethiopian culture, landmarks & other info. with accompanying music.
Hopefully you enjoyed my friend’s and my adventure in dining at the Blue Nile Ethiopian Restaurant in Houston, Texas. Have you ever eaten Ethiopian food? Do you like it or would you be willing to try it? Looking forward to reading your comments. Thanks!
Where you can find this award winning restaurant: