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Aster's Ethiopian - now open!

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  • renz Apr 2, 2007 11:40 PM

I've seen various inquiries about Ethiopian food in Austin, and Aster's is finally open.

It's on I-35, just north of Dean Keeton, on the southbound side.

I haven't tried Aster's dishes that she sells (sold?) at the farmer's market, but when I saw that the restaurant was open, we did a u-turn to check it out. It was opening night, so I won't presume to give a full critique, but it was a pleasant space, with a good-size outdoor patio (screened off from the highway).

The food was all terrific. We had a combination plate, 3 meats and 3 veg. As far as I can remember, we tried the lamb in curry sauce, beef cubes in berbere sauce, and chicken (doro watt?). Our vegs included collard greens, curried lentil stew, and mixed vegetable stew.

I've only had Ethiopian before in NYC, and I was sorry not to see some of my favorite dishes from there at Asters, especially on the veg side (half the choices available are variations on lentils), but everything we had was really tasty and nicely cooked.

They were generous with the injera, too, and provided cutlery without being asked, in case you are unfamiliar/uncomfortable with stews as finger food.

Sorry for the short and superficial write-up, but as I said, I wouldn't feel fair doing a full critique of a restaurant's first night.

If you have any curiosity, it's definitely worth checking out. You might try calling ahead to see if it's BYOB (definitely no wines or beer on the menu, but I don't know the laws around here).

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  1. wonderful news, thanks for the early report. I hope they can get enough business in that location.

    1. Good news, I used to go to her place over on Rundberg back in the day and the food was always top notch. Looking forward to checking out the new digs.

      1. I brought a group here last night and the food was great. Best Ethiopian I have had. We ordered a meat each and they brought two veggies sides for each so we basically had all the veggies on the menu. A feast. It was all good. Especially the spicy lamb. It is BYOB, and they were very happy to bring glasses. The decor is a bit bright, but the patio is nice and a little more comfortable. It's a family business so you'll be served by the daughters or other family members. Go eat here now cause it would be a shame to lose this restaurant. Every great city needs Injera!!!

        1. We went last night, and found it satisfying. It's definitely worth going if you are in Austin and craving Ethiopian food, or if you have never had it before. The doro watt chicken was a little hotter than I'm used to, the vegetable dishes were a little plainer, but everything was good. Two dishes were a pleasant amount for two people, and extra injera bread was served on request.

          1. Just got back from our first dinner there (we live in the neighborhood, so didn't mind driving five minutes thru the sleet), and I can echo the positive sentiments. The lamb (available for dinner, but not on the lunch menu, apparently) was luscious and the veggie combo (seven or eight different veggie dishes served family style on top of injera) was delicious. Service was friendly, and the place was *packed*. We got there at 8:35, 25 minutes before closing time, and the place was half-filled. (Judging by the high-brow conversations I half overheard, most of the customers were UT-related.) Within 15 minutes every table was taken. When we left at 9:40, 40 minutes after closing time, the place was still 2/3 full. Very encouraging.

            1. Ate here tonight and it was delicious. I echo the compliments on the veg. combo and the chicken was delicious (doro watt -- mentioned above) though I could see how some may say it's spicy it's definitely a unique and great dish. The waitstaff was very friendly and the atmosphere was warm and cozy. Definitely going back.

              1. Not sure if anyone noticed, but they had a food booth at the Fine Arts Festival this past weekend. I was already stuffed with Hoover's meatloaf when I got there, so I wasn't hungry, but their plates looked good and they seemed to be doing good business.

                1 Reply
                1. re: jwynne2000

                  She used to be a regular at the downtown saturday farmer's market (I haven't been lately since moving up north) selling sides and plates. I caved more than a few times and ended up with a fabulous lunch later in the day.

                2. What are the prices like? And are they open for lunch? I can't find a website. Thanks for all this great info!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: bookgrrl72

                    Have to say the family came away a little disappointed. It might have been what we ordered, maybe didn't order the right dishes. Got the Lamb stew and the Cabbage as the entrees split between three people. The lamb stew was pretty bland, pretty greasy and very bony. The cabbage was just OK. The two side dishes though were excellent. Pickled type lentils and a mashed lentil curry type veg. those were great. Funny though, the injera bread was served cold. I have only had Ethiopian one other place and there the bread was served warm. So I don't know which style is considered standard. I prefer it warm. All in all, it was OK, but not as good as the reviews I have been reading. Also at 9 to 10 dollars per entree its not exactly cheap. (used to eating $2.25 vietnamese sandwiches, so it was a little bit of sticker shock)

                  2. We went a couple of weeks ago with a large group of friends and they were very accomodating. It is BYOB and they cheerfully supplied glasses for our wine. The chicken, beef, lentils and cabbage were great and the injera was perfect. I hope they do very well.

                    1. visited aster's last week with a group of 8. i think i've only had ethiopian food once, and it was more than 15 years ago, so i didn't really know what to expect, except for eating with my fingers. pretty basic menu with a two-sided menu, one veg offerings and the other is meat offerings.

                      i'm sorry, i don't remember the names of anything, but we had a spicy beef dish, spicy lamb dish, a mild lamb dish, the special chicken dish with the whole hard-boiled egg in it and lots of veggie sides and a vegetable combo plate. they were out of the 'tar-tar' that evening, but we would've ordered that as well. it was all quite delicious. my favorite being the chicken and the mild lamb dishes, the yellow lentils, collard greens. i did find quite a few bones in the various meat stews, so it can be a bit disconcerting to those not used to gnawing on braised/stewed bones. i, however, found it comforting and delicious. i don't know how it's traditionally done but, i echo chrisstein's sentiments and wish the injera was served warm. if i could've really gotten my way i would've asked to have a big bowl of steamed rice to soak up all the delicious sauces left in our bowls after we ate all the meat.

                      at first i was a bit surprised at the prices ($10+ per meat entree that includes 2 veg sides and injera), but for the deliciously unique offerings and amount of time and love put into cooking the dishes, it is well worth it.

                       
                       
                       
                       
                      1 Reply
                      1. re: yimay

                        I have never had injera served cold, except at Aster's (and never rolled, but, rather, folded napkin like). It was always brought out at room temperature, which I prefer. Served cold, the injera seems somewhat drier and stiffer. I assume that Aster prepares the injera in quantities and refrigerates them for use throughout the day. As to the price, Aster's offers a lunch menu, in the $6 range and a dinner menu in the $10-13 range (with larger servings). All in all, Aster's is not as good as other Ethiopian restaurants that I have eaten at (especially the Houston ones), but, hey, its the only game in town and well worth supporting. The one constant I have noticed in all the Ethiopian restaurants that I have eaten at is the ever-presence of taxi cabs in the parking lot, but I guess that that is a subject for another discussion board...

                      2. My SO and I went to Astor's last night. It was enjoyable. For meat entrees we had the spicy beef (I believe it was the first selection on the meat side of the menu) and the lamb (The spicy non-tumeric sauced one) Unfortunately, I can't remember the names, but there are descriptions on the menu. The beef was good, although the lamb was far better, being fork tender, and coming right off the bone. The bones themselves still had soft marrow inside which was delicious (I love marrow, while my SO is grossed out by the thought) The vegetarian sides we had were the ethiopian style collared greens, (both of our favorites) which had a tangy spice to them. We also had the spicy mashed lentils, and a potato, carrot, and green bean mixture which tasted fine but was very forgettable. For reference, these sides were the first four on the vegetarian side of the menu. I was very relieved when the injera they brought was not cold. It was room temperature, maybe slightly warmer. I was very happy about that, because I have had their cold injera from their pre-packaged ethiopian meals that they sell at Whole Foods, and didn't care for it. It was also soft and fluffy, and didn't break when you folded it, like the cold kind did.

                        I hope it does well, and I will be back. My biggest complaint would be the service was lacking because they were understaffed for a large dinner rush, and they don't sell any honey wine or ginger beer which are our favorite beverages to drink with Ethiopian and Eritrean food.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Homero

                          I went there with a sizable dinner party ... 'bout 10 people, and the staff was very friendly/responsive. This was on a Friday nite, and the kitchen seemed to keep up with everyone. I think you have to set a couple of breakpoints for a restaurant ... one ... would be at 6 months ... or just under ...., and ... then maybe at a year. I was impressed with the food/staff , and would go back in a heartbeat.

                          1. re: mrmodularus

                            I will definitely be going back. I didn't mean to say that the service was terrible by any means, just that our waiter seemed to be a little overburdened by a sudden dinner rush It took him about 15 minutes to get us our check after we had asked for it. Not the end of the world, but we were trying to catch a show. The food was good, and the staff was very friendly. I guess I also tend to be a bit overly critical, from having been in food service for several years.

                        2. I know absolutely nothing about Ethiopian cuisine. These replies make me want to know, howerver. If you would like to give me some direction, that would be great. I want to try this place!

                          1. I had Ethiopian for the first time in Houston in January, and was waiting with bated breath after I heard Austin was getting an Ethiopian place. After finally checking Aster's out last Friday, however, I had mixed feelings. On the one hand, the food was excellent. We split the lamb with berbere spices, tender spicy hunks of lamb with a few mouth and mind melting pieces of fat, and the two vegetable sides. The injera was a little tough, but the dishes themselves were spectacular--well spiced, hot, playing off each other with each bite. The injera was a little dried out and chewy, and not as tender and spongey as I've had it before.

                            My disappointment may just be in relation to the spectacular experience we had at Blue Nile in Houston, where the food was just as good and we got way more of it, plus unlimited injera. We couldn't have gotten by at Aster's without another order of injera, and even then we could have used another piece. I'm glad Austin's got Aster's, and I will go back, but only when I can't make the drive to Houston...

                            1. Not a big deal, but I'm pretty sure it's Asther's. Anyway, I went there yesterday with some friends and family, and the food was pretty good, though not at all extraordinary. What really annoyed me was the prices. We shelled out $100 for nine of us, which sounds OK until you realize that that is equal to about 14 bites of food per person for the entire meal. If it had cost half as much, it would have been too expensive. Again, it was good, but not nearly that good. What's more, most of the food was put on big, communal platters which is fine, except that we had little idea of what we were eating. Will I go there again? No way.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: SirVlad

                                It's actually is Aster's. $100 for nine people sounds really good...too good, in fact, which is, perhaps, why you left unsatisfied.

                                1. re: Twill

                                  Hi Twill - Sorry, I stand corrected on the spelling. That certainly explains why I only got 3 Google sites when I spelled it wrong, though! However, I'm a little mystified by your comment "too good, in fact, which is, perhaps, why you left unsatisfied." But no matter. I still feel that, for what we got, $100 was way way too much.

                                  1. re: SirVlad

                                    I went to Aster's last night for the first time. Also my first time eating Ethiopian. There were 6 of us, and we ordered 4 meat dishes which came with 2 sides each, for a total of 8 vegetable sides. I wish I could remember the names of everything, but I only remember the Doro Wat (chicken drumsticks (2) with a hardboiled egg in a dark sauce that reminded me of mole), and the Gomen (collards cooked with spices).

                                    We had plenty of food for the 6 of us and paid a whopping $66 dollars with tax and tip. I'd say that's quite a deal. I'll definitely be back as I loved the food as well as the atmosphere and the experience.