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Jun 7, 2008 09:57 PM

Red Sea - Guadalajara - Santa Rosa Rally.... Sublime Collard Greens, Shiro, Jericalla, Espresso & Crocodile Skin Loafers

Finally got out to Abyssinia... I cannot understand why I hadn't tried it sooner... I can't see enough good things about the food here... a definite Chowhounder's place.... great food prepared & served with lots of soul, great value, casual, good vibe.... its got everything to be a regular. Unfortunately, its in a cursed location and while all the Internet reviews are positive... they are not coming in droves.

My wife, baby & I shared the Vegetarian set, and were served a feast of various stews on Injera....

> Shiro... its a silky red hued puree of Chickpeas that was outstanding
> Collard Greens.... omg every Soul Food / Southern cook needs to come learn how to prepare Collards from these cats
> Curried Lentils... very good... the spicing reminded me of Chili
> Green Lentils with mustard.... great (the French should learn how to treat lentils this well)
> Hearty Potato & Cabbage stew with Tumeric
> Beautiful Tomato, Jalapeno & Lettuce Salad

Everything of course served on top of Injera... and even more Injera on the side. Prior to that we received hot towels.... oh and the food was perfectly paired by the Oregano Tea... which in addition to its surprising, intriguing aroma, pleasant herby taste.... probably also cured me of many ills. Everything tasted great... with the Garbanzos & Collard Greens being outstanding.

Now.. the place labels itself as Ethiopian - Eritrean... I imagine its one or the other... but I am not asking that question (if you know the history... you know what I am talking about)... what I will say is that the food here at Abyssinia is much more subtle & mild... then the typical Ethiopian place I have encountered in the past... don't know if this is a Regional difference, kitchen peculiarity, or simply adapting to the Sonoma County palette. In any case... the spicing is mild... the only thing being unequivocally spicy was the salad... and the lentils being moderatly spicy... everything else was fairly mild.... so for my palette I will be asking for some extra Berbere.

BTW... the platter for two was $20.... and more than enough food.... this place is a great deal.

Abyssinia doesn't offer desserts so we took the opportunity to check out El Rinconcito Cafe y Neveria... a Torteria/Cafe/Fruteria/Neveria/Desserteria/Shoeria adjacent to El Michoacano in the Roseland barrio... the place is an absolute trip... Comfy couches face towards a Boombox blasting out nostalgic Mariachi-Boleros sung by 65 year old macho-tenor Vicente Fernandez... and a rack of fancy Mexican Pimp style shoes including Crocodile leather loafers in tropical tan.....

$3 Jericallas for two (kind of like a cross between Flan Napolitano & Creme Brulee) are served in beautiful clay cazuelitas made by Purepecha artisans... they have nooks & crannies like a fine swiss cheese... and a thick beautiful glaze of scorched sugar... an optional addition of Rompope is quite nice.

The Medium Espresso ($1.50) which was at least 4 ounces of magical elixir... made with Boyd's Guatemalan Estate beans... was quite simply one of the very, very, very best Espressos I've ever had... so smooth & sipabble... not lemon rind or sugar needed... did I say sublime?

If anybody checks it out before I can get there again.... among the tortas they have Queso de Puerco (Head Cheese) as well as Pierna (Baked Pork Leg).... and Tostadas de Cueritos (Pickled Pork Skin)... as well as Paninis... and whole host of intersting goodies... Pastries, Bionicos, Escamochas, Vegetable Juices etc.,etc., etc.,

913 4th St, Santa Rosa, CA 95404

Restaurant El Michoacano
500 Sebastopol Rd, Santa Rosa, CA 95407

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  1. Interesting about that salad with jalapeno. Can you tell me a little more about it?

    2 Replies
    1. re: rworange

      It was a great rustic, clean tasting salad... it had tomato wedges, generously chopped lettuce... maybe onions & cucumbers as well... with little strips of raw jalapenos all tossed together... and I think there might have been some kind of spicy vinagrette or pickling juice that was very lightly doused on the salad... very simple but incredibly tasty... and a very nice contrast to all the slow cooked stews.

      1. re: Eat_Nopal

        This connects up to a question I've been wanting to ask. For those who care, the salad in question is a variation on timatim selata, which is a favorite Ethiopian condiment/salad. I became addicted to the stuff at Merkato on Fairfax in LA (which you should all visit because it's fantastic and cheap!), but their version (and most I've had in LA) has nolettuce/cucumbers, which I infinitely prefer. Now that I've moved up to the Bay more or less for good, I NEED a new Ethiopian place. We've tried all the usual SF contenders (Axum, Massawa, etc., etc.,.) and nothing even comes close... even worse, they specifically don't have the timatim selata, or it's only available mixed with injera (timatim fitfit) or with lettuce. Has anyone tried an Ethiopian place in the Bay that has the salad, no lettuce, no injera, just tomatoes/onions/jalapenos in the lemony dressing? If so please speak up...thank you!

    2. I liked Abyssinia too. They had a garbanzo bean appetizer that I expected to be like hummus, but it had a fluffy texture that I'd never seen before, couldn't figure out how they did it. I did ask about the Ethiopian or Eritrean thing, but they're not telling. That's why they named it something that encompassed both.

      1. I interviewed the proprietors of an Ethiopian and an Eritrean restaurant when I was in j-school, and both said the only difference was that Eritrean restaurants also serve spaghetti! It's a vestige of Eritrea's colonization by Italy.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Cicely

          In case it's a clue, the dancers on the TV screen when I was there looked Ethiopian. I'm judging by the fact that when the Eritreans dance at Glendi they have less movement in the shoulders.

          1. re: wearybashful

            Uh there are differences between Eritrea and Ethiopia. People in Tigre region of Northern Ethiopia and Eritreans speak the same language Tigrynian. My son's father had a Eritrean dad and Tigrean mom. Sadly there has been a border issue and war off and on for many years. Eritrean independence was hard fought from Ethiopia. Animosity on both sides.
            Perhaps Abyssina Restuarant is trying to bring the two communities together via shared foodways. Large Eritrean community in Santa Rosa and Oakland. Ethiopian communities in San Francisco, East Bay and South Bay.
            I hope their venture succeeds.
            I have to bring my ultimate injera taster (my son) to check them out. He only eats the good stuff.

            1. re: drmimi

              We went with a larger group on Monday... and they added some decor in the cash register area.. consisting of Christian paraphanelia... I assume this means they are Ethiopian... but I am sure you have much greater insight?

              Also... the food was equally solid on the 2nd visit.. this time we added the Tibs & Chicken with Hard Boiled Egg... both were addicting. I was also happy to see the place almost full... so I think it does have a chance of breaking the curse.

        2. You've described El Rinconcito to a tee, but you forgot to mention the massage chair pushed next to the side wall. (ggg)

          The ice cream scooping station serves up Dreyers. I had a slug of rompope as a topping for my cup of flan. Boy, it's alcoholic and rummy here! Not that I'm complaining. . .

          2 Replies
          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Too funny... we had the toddler with us... who was toddling all over the place... so yes my observational abilities were eroded beyond the alcohol in the Rompope. Massage chair... too funny.

            1. re: Eat_Nopal

              The owner's very friendly, I talked to him a bit. He's been there almost two years . . . can't believe I didn't notice it before. He explained that's the rinconcito part, tucked away in the corner. I left my purse behind, and he came running out to the parking lot to catch me before I drove off. Too much rompope!

          2. Wanting to move quickly on your rec for piña-nopal agua, the closest spot I thought might have it was El Rinconcito. And, no one batted an eye when I asked for it, other than to ask whether I wanted agua fresca or licuado. I opted for the agua to avoid dairy, and the lady had me taste it first to see if it had enough sugar or pineapple for my taste. I asked for both sugar and pineapple, and also offered to pay for a "large" instead of the "medium" I'd ordered since the volume was growing. She shook her head "no" and said the extra was for her! The tangy green freshness of cactus is indeed complimentary to pineapple, thanks for the rec.

            Oh, I used the rest room while I was waiting for my order. There are yoga mats and dozens of shoe boxes stacked up in there. Spotless in every other way.