Last week E sent an email to me and a couple others asking about "getting some folks together to try the new Eritrean restaurant on Rainier Ave South just south of I-90".
I was in! Then someone asked what is "Eritrean"? I had to admit that I hadn’t known either but right after I accepted I did a little research. Eritrea is a country in East Africa. Back in 1952 it was awarded to Ethiopia and was eventually annexed to Ethiopia. For 30 years the Eritreans tried to regain their independence and that finally happened in 1991. But, as with many of these things, it hasn’t been an easy road and there is currently a U.N. peacekeeping operation that monitors a 25 km strip between the two countries until a final border can be established.
Eritrea is shoe-horned in between Ethiopia and Sudan, with much of its border running along the Red Sea. Dahlak is an archipelago off the Eritrea coast. Although officially belonging to Eritrea, other countries, especially Yemen, would like to claim the islands as their own. Because of this, the beautiful and pristine islands can be very dangerous. Although they are used for recreation some areas are filled with mines so you must be extremely careful when in the islands.
Now that last bit of information was provided by the third person at dinner, RA, who is Eritrean! It was so great to have her guide us through the dinner and provide all kinds of information and background on the country and customs. I learned so much last night! Welcome to Seattle, RA!
But you want to know more about the restaurant and the meal, don’t you? Okay, the first thing I need to say is don’t let the exterior scare you. It’s not much to look at, not bad just not necessarily the type of place that draws you in at first glance. But once inside you’ll see the (very large!) space is neat and clean and it smells of incense, which RA explained is used in many rituals. We were seated, brought menus and asked if we’d like coffee. RA suggested we try the coffee; it would be very good, she told us. So we each ordered coffee. What was served to us was the beautiful cup you see at the top of this page. The coffee was fragrant, strong and heavily sugared. It was really wonderful. We were discussing the flavor and RA told us that most of the time, places roast their own beans over the stove and we guessed that was exactly what made these tiny cups of coffee so satisfying.
Next, we spent quite a bit of time reviewing the menu – wanting to try a bit of everything, not wanting to miss anything but having a hard time deciding how to fit it all in. We finally settled on: the meat combination which included Kelwa Beghie, Alicha Beghie, and Zelzil Tebsie; the Vegetable Combination, which I forgot to record what all was included but you can see much of it in the photo above; and Derho Fitfit, one of RA’s favorite dishes. This photo does not do the meal justice! The colors were so vibrant and everything was impeccably fresh and well prepared.
The porous, sponge-like item in the photo is Injera Bread, the mainstay bread of the Eritreans. It is much like a crepe but a little spongier. It is used in a number of ways – on its own, mixed into dishes, as the liner on the platter and as the "utensil" to scoop up your meal. You take a small bit of the bread, hold it between thumb and forefinger and then pinch whatever you’d like to eat into it. As I’ve mentioned before I like meals that I get to participate in and this was perfect, as I decided what to pinch and whether to have it on its own or to add a bit of something else.
The food was really good! Unfortunately, we were busy talking and laughing and so I didn’t learn which name belonged with which dish but I liked them all. Two of the meat dishes were lamb, one spicier than the other, and the third was beef. All of the meat was tender and cooked in the most wonderful sauces. The vegetables were cooked until tender but still a bit crisp. Even the okra was good. :-)
We ate until we were stuffed and still had a lot of food remaining. E boxed it up to take home to share with BR. We were all amazed to see how the time had flown by! We had arrived shortly after 7:00 and it was after 9:30 when we left. You know what they say about time and having fun!
Besides the coffee and our meal, E had a soft drink and RA also had fragrant tea. With all of that our meal (before tip) was under $15 each! This is really a great bargain! And Dahlak passed E’s cleanliness test all around, he told us when he returned from the restroom… What more can you ask for? Great and interesting food, nice people (which I forgot to mention until now – the people were very friendly and wonderful), a clean and tidy place and all at a pretty tiny cost.
It’s a little hard to see from the road, as it sits at the back of the parking lot. The sign above is the one on the road. The sign to the right is on the building itself. The easiest thing is to look for the Oberto outlet store – Dahlak is on the south side of that building.
Dahlak Eritrean Cuisine
2007 South State St (Ranier & State)