By Jana Julian | Staff Writer
On O‘ahu, there are endless amounts of Thai, Japanese and Korean restaurants to chose from but Ethiopian Love is the only restaurant of its kind. The East African eatery, owned by Abraham Samuel, can be found on 1112 Smith Street in Chinatown, across the street from Lucky Belly, having relocated from Kapahulu Avenue in 2015; before opening a brick-and-mortar location downtown, Ethiopian Love operated as a pop-up restaurant, sharing its space with a qramen restaurant.
Here you will find family style dishes made with traditional spice blends called berbere and kebe, ghee (clarified butter), and delicious stewed meat and vegan options. Menu options at the restaurant include three appetizers, six main entrees of beef, lamb or chicken and nine vegetarian entrees. Each dish is served with injera, a spongy, sourdough flatbread that is made from teff flour which is the national dish of Ethiopia. Ethiopian food is typically meant to be shared in groups, and the injera is used to pick up delicious chunks of Doro Wat (a spiced chicken stew) and stewed veggies.
Typically Ethiopian food is eaten with your hands, and traditionally the practice of gursha (Amharic for “mouthful”) allows you to honor another guest by taking a portion of food wrapped in injera and feeding it to another person with them returning the favor.
Upon arriving at the restaurant, we were seated immediately and invited to go pick up a few beers or bottle of wine while we waited for our food since the restaurant has a BYOB policy; we opted to try the Ethiopian iced tea made with cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon. Other drink options include participating in a coffee ceremony; coffee ceremonies in Ethiopia are a well-known tradition being offered to visitors or during festivities.
Our party ordered the Monday special Doro Tibs (chicken stewed with veggies and spices) and the Ethiopian Love veggie sampler that came with six of the vegetarian dishes of the day. The two dishes came out on plates with injera topped with stew and a basket of more injera. Each dish had bold flavors from the spices, onions and garlic and a mild spiciness from the fresh jalapenos. The server provided a basket of napkins to ensure we had clean hands at all times and beverages were served in mason jars and copper cups.
Dishes typically run between $12-$20 and can easily be shared between 2-3 people. With shareable plates and the option of BYOB, this makes for an affordable meal with friends or family.
Ethiopian love is open every day (except Tuesdays) from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and is perfect for an intimate dinner or a large gathering. Thursday through Saturday are usually the busiest days at the restaurant according to the staff.
Being the only Ethiopian restaurant on the island, this is an opportuntity to try authentic East African food with friends or family.