Ethiopian at Cafe Rehoboth in San Jose's Japantown
After becoming aware of Cafe Rehoboth, which opened last August, only in the last few days, we decided to pay a visit earlier this evening. Things were quiet. We were warmly greeted by the family that owns it. As we sat down, the owner/chef came out to say hi and tell us about the restaurant. We ended up talking for awhile about a bunch of things. The conversation was absorbing enough that I'd have been happy to have had her stick around for awhile longer before she disappeared to prepare our meal. I look forward to continuing it at another visit.
One of the subjects that came up, at my suggestion, was that I love Ethiopian food, but wish the ingredients were of higher quality than they tend to be at quite a few places. My biggest gripe is the use of corn oil instead of olive oil, which would work better taste and healthwise.
Did I ever strike the right note. Cafe Rehoboth does olive oil, and not only that, have a couple different ones they use depending on the dish. And most of the produce is organic. Yes! Just what I wanted! I didn't ask about the sources of the meats, though I'll do that another time.
We got our standbys, Gomen (collard greens), which were tender, lively and delicious, Yedoro Tibs, the chicken saute, which was sweetened nicely by the onions and the best version of this dish I've tried, a tasty red lentil dish, which had great texture and a great balance of spices (the owner was rightfully proud of this one), and a bit of Kik Alicha, the split pea staple of many an Ethiopian menu. That balance I mentioned in the lentil dish was characteristic of everything. All the dishes had just the right amount of each flavor and they all sung together.
The injera was thicker and a bit less sour than some and a bit more brittle in its texture, probably due to the proportion of teff to other grains and the fact that she doesn't use any yeast that doesn't come naturally from the fermenting process. I like it as sour at anyone is wiling or able to make it, but I'm not complaining.
This is now my favorite Ethiopian restaurant in the area and the fact that they use better and healthier ingredients than most will probably get me back often. It was pretty quiet tonight, though it sounds like there are busier times of the day and week. I hope so, because I want this place to make it, both for the owners and for me.
If you're in the South Bay and like Ethiopian food, make sure to pay a visit.
655 N 6th St. at Taylor
San Jose, CA 95112
re: Carb Lover
Zeni has been one of the places we've eaten at most since moving down this way from SF a few years ago. It's well known and popular, commented on here a fair amount. The service and ambience are nice, the food's good. It's sort of a well oiled machine in that they handle things well and there's a great, steady clientele of Ethiopians and a good chunk of the rest of the area's demographics, too. But where Cafe Rehoboth splurges a bit, Zeni cuts corners, like with the use of corn oil the dishes that don't use butter.
Still, if you like Ethiopian food and live in or are around the South Bay, you should go there and try it. It's at Payne and Saratoga in SJ.
There are some others, but I don't know them well. Mudai on San Carlos is pretty good. There's another place I ate at once, a real hole in the wall. I can't remember the name, but though I liked it, I wasn't inclined to return.
I understand about Zeni. I've been there more times than I could count. If you like Zeni's lentils, you really should pay a visit to Cafe Rehoboth.
I'm loyal to my favorites, too, so it would take a clear difference to get me to switch elsewhere. It's only been one visit to Cafe Rehoboth, but that one visit demonstrated that.
Sorry for my effusiveness about this. I don't know the family that owns this restaurant, had never met them until the other night. But they have something I wanted and they do it well, so I'm excited about it and hoping it goes well for them.
BTW, the owner seems to know her coffee, Ethiopia being the original source of it. And she has plans to do things with that, too. I'm not a huge coffee drinker, but it sounds like something to check out, too.
Four of us went to Rehoboth recently, and the best way to summarize it is that Zeni now has competition. :-)
We ordered yedoro tibs (chicken), vegetarian combo, yemisir wot (red lentils) and a beef dish. (Sorry I don't recall the name of the latter; not eating beef is my reason for amnesia. My spousal unit liked it and thought it had a pleasant, almost fruity flavor.) We all agreed that most of the dishes could've been improved with a bit more heat (spiciness). Must say, though, that in spite of this, the chicken was amazing! It's better than Zeni's, and I'm a big fan of Zeni's, too.
The red lentils, I'm ambivalent about: They were good, but Zeni's might be better. Perhaps more spice would've helped. The collard greens were tasty, less bitter than at other Ethiopian places I've been to. There was also shiro, puréed chickpeas: a dish I usually find bland/pasty elsewhere, but at Rehoboth was more flavorful and subtle. The cabbage-carrot-potato stew was quite good, having a touch of sweetness. We also got a stewed green string bean-carrot dish which we hadn't seen at other Ethiopian eateries: slightly tart and yummy.
A note about the injera: it's mostly teff, but the owner said there's a small amount of wheat and barley flours added.
Speaking of the owner, Kay, she was very attentive and friendly. It was comfortable, almost like eating at someone's house. She asked about how the food was, and when we mentioned needing a bit more spicing, she said that she'll give us a side of awaze (chili sauce) next time we come by. Looking forward to going there again.