Monday, January 28, 2013

Abay Ethiopian Cuisine

Ethiopian food.  In Pittsburgh.  Yup.  It exists.

When I first heard of Abay (pronounced uh-BYE), which is owned by Jamie Wallace, who also owns Alma Pan-Latin Kitchen, I had no idea what "Ethiopian" food actually meant.  I've always learned about foods of the Americas and Europe, and really didn't know what was native to countries in Africa.

But, of course, I wanted to find out.  Call me curious.  I google everything.

James wanted to go out on a snowy Friday evening, one where my own normal commute is all of 2 minutes, but instead turned into a 15-minute, white-knuckled, spinning tires horror story.  My little Hyundai Elantra is not built for sudden snowstorms, and his Subaru Outback he came all the way out to get me from West Mifflin, even though Abay is a short 5-minute drive from his place.

Awww, isn't he sweet?

Abay Ethiopian Cuisine
When we arrived, we were presented with the opportunity to sit at a mesob or a traditional table.  Mesobs are basket-like tables with low, backless stools that are common in Ethiopia.  James wasn't for being hunched-over during dinner, so we chose the traditional table.

View from our "traditional" table
Ethiopians are all about community, so each dish was meant to be shared (which James and I normally do, anyway).  We started with an appetizer of Beef Sambussa:

Beef Sambussa
No utensils were provided, as each dish is meant to be eaten with the hands, and it was no problem to do so.  Yum.  If they weren't so hot, I would've eaten mine in one bite!

We had some problems deciding what to order, since we weren't familiar with what was "good" - so we got a combination platter, and with some help from our waitress, went with Gomen Besiga (beef), Doro Tibs (chicken), Ayib Be Gomen (collard greens & cheese), and Harissa Scallops:

Ayib Be Gomen & Harissa Scallops on Injera

Gomen Besiga & Doro Tibs on Injera
These were all served on injera, an Ethiopian bread with the consistency of a thin pancake, which makes it easier to eat with our hands.  Tear off a piece of injera and grab what you want with it - that's how it's done.  All 4 items were great choices, with the Gomen Besiga being my personal favorite.

We also got samples of 4 other items - Kay Sir Dinich (potato & beets), Butecha (chickpeas), Kay Wat (beef), and Tabil Lamb:

Kay Sir Dinich (potato & beets), Butecha (chickpeas), Kay Wat (beef), and Tabil Lamb
All of these items were unique - much different from dishes I have eaten elsewhere.  Many of them reminded me of Indian dishes, as the spices seemed similar, but all were great.  I ate with my hands the whole time (although we were given forks, just in case) and it was enjoyable eating in a way that otherwise may be considered by Americans as - well, savage.

The best part?  Dessert.  We ordered the Pumpkin Sambussa with vanilla ice cream and honey:

Pumpkin Sambussa with Vanilla Ice Cream & Honey
Ohhhhhhhh, my.  Yes.  Dessert was a fabulous choice - if you like pumpkin pie, or ice cream, or flaky-ness, or...ok, if you like any dessert, you will LOVE this!

The dinner at Abay was culturally diverse, as the restaurant aims to be - being in Pittsburgh, you'd never expect "Ethiopian cuisine" to appear anywhere in the mix, but it is - and it's awesome!  Looking for a new idea for a date night?  Eating with your hands will definitely break the ice, whether the relationship is new or long-term.

Abay Ethiopian Cuisine
130 S. Highland Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15206


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