Tampa's Abol Bunna or "I drove 70 miles for that?"
Abol Bunna - Tampa
3644 W. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, 813-964-6889
I had some time off in mid-December and elected to take advantage of my daytime freedom by making a pilgrimage to Tampa to try the new Ethiopian restaurant, Abol Bunna.
Abol Bunna was rather favorably reviewed in Creative Loafing http://tampa.creativeloafing.com/gyrobase/abol_bunna_joins_queen_of_sheba_as_an_ethiopian_restaurant_destination/Content?oid=567530
And the St Pete Times http://www.tampabay.com/features/food...
I’m not an expert in this cuisine, but I have sampled it broadly. I found love at first bite at Tampa’s old Ibex, and then when I moved away, I sought out Ethiopian food where I could. Chicago and DC have provided a number of good Ethiopian meals. When I lived in NOLA, there was a restaurant from the neighboring country Eritrea, which has a similar cuisine.
The Spousal Unit and I arrived around lunch time. There were a fair number of customers present, although plenty of tables were available. We stood inside the door for a few minutes as we were unsure if we should seat ourselves. After a while we opted to do just that. There was a significant lag before a server came into the dining room, another before we received menus, another before our drinks were served.
When I eat in ethnic restaurants, I don’t expect the pace of service that is the norm at say, a chain restaurant; not every culture is as obsessed with time as we are. We arrived with no agenda for the day other than to enjoy a meal but to describe the service at Abol Bunna as “leisurely” would be generous.
The raw tartare-like dishes, kitfo and gored gored, are particularly addictive, so one or both is always part of our order. The Spousal Unit opted for the gored gored. When the waitress asked how we wanted the gored gored prepared, the Spousal Unit said “raw.”
She looked doubtful and asked, “Are you sure?”
“Yes!” confirmed the Spousal Unit with enthusiasm.
“Yes!” I added emphatically, making eye contact with the waitress and nodding.
To balance out the meal, I ordered a vegetarian combo.
The gored gored arrived first, even before the injera, which was surprising. In my experience, the meals are served communally. Maybe when I ordered the veg combo they thought one of us was vegetarian?
The gored gored also arrived cooked. It was exceedingly annoying, but since you can’t un-cook anything, we kept it. When I was discussing this with a co-worker at a Christmas party later, he pointed out that if the kitchen was not confident enough of the quality of the beef or the hygiene of the kitchen to serve it raw, then I probably wouldn’t want to eat it that way anyway.
My vegetarian combo was hit-and-miss. The yellow lentil (or was it split pea?) dish was not cooked through – the legumes were mostly crunchy. The red lentil dish was good. The dish of stewed cabbage, potato and carrot was full of large, mostly raw cubes of potato and carrot and the cabbage was raw and crunchy. The real hit on the plate was dish composed of cubed, sautéed pumpkin. Another woman brought us a sampling of a very flavorful red sauce, but it arrived so late in the meal that we were mostly finished. It would have added life to the bland yellow pea and cabbage dishes.
When drink refills were finally offered, we were ready for our check.
We ate this fairly unsatisfactory meal because, frankly, we were hungry. We would have had to wait a long time to give feedback on the undercooked and overcooked dishes, and by the time we had a chance, we had eaten a good bit of them.
Was it just an off day? I don’t know. Was the cooked gored gored a case of “we know better what you’ll like?” I don’t know. I do know that I won’t drive seventy miles again to find out.
We left Abol Bunna with full bellies, but with mouths still hungering for Ethiopian food.
Seems Abol Bunna is no mo'!
I went for the first time a month or so ago to try their lunch buffet...
This would be my first taste of Ethiopian food, and I did taste some interesting new flavors which I was kinda excited about...
So hungry, I went back a couple days ago and was sad to see this sign on the door...
Guess I'll search out Queen of Sheba----- AND the identity of some of these new flavors so I can use them at home...
Our group tried Abol Bunna about 10 days ago. I thought it was a lovely place. Service was a bit slow, but not horrible. The owner knew a member of our party and was very pleasant to speak with. My friend loved his raw kitfo and thought it was tastier than QoS. I had a beef stew that also had great flavor. My main criticism with both South Tampa Ethiopian restaurants is the value- the portions are small for the price and there aren't enough 'come withs.' I had meat, sauce and injera. Maybe I need to be more educated about the cuisine but it seems their idea of veggies is lentils and sauce. I think both these restaurants deserve to be tried at least once and are an interesting choice to take the out-of-towners, but I'm not sure if I would keep going back to either of them.