Thursday, August 2, 2012

Queen of Sheba: An Ethiopian Paradise in Louisville

In an attempt to make the "My Louisville Loves" link on my blog a little more complete, I thought I would try my hand at restaurant reviews. My first week back has been an overload of all of the food I couldn't get back in the Mediterranean wonderland, and on top of that list was Ethiopian fare. So, we high-tailed it to Queen of Sheba on Taylorsville Road.

I tried Queen of Sheba back in my freshman year of college, it has been a mainstay in my Louisville restaurant diet ever since. Overall, they always have delicious food with complex flavors, it is very comfortable, and it is a welcoming environment to those who have absolutely no idea what Ethiopian food could be. If you aren't acquainted already, let me walk you through to give you an idea.

The building from the outside is pretty unassuming compared to the Ethiopian paradise that you are about to enter. You can smell the aroma of the warm Ethiopian spices even before you open the door. I usually let out a shriek of joy when I pull the door open, so it's a good thing they have a little foyer to prevent me from startling the other customers. Anyways, you enter with a delicious wafting smell of warm spices, medium level conversation, and climate controlling that doesn't remind you of the Arctic Circle (I appreciated that detail). The walls are decorated with hand-woven baskets and artifacts from the land of Ethiopia, and they have decorative faux tall grasses to separate the bar and kitchen from the main dining room. In addition, there is an auxiliar dining room in the back. You should wait to be seated by one of the friendly waitstaff and prepare yourself to be amused.

We were a party of three the night we went, and the menu is very friendly to groups and individuals who are willing to try some variety. They offer vegetarian and meat options that include lamb, chicken, beef, fish, lentils, and a myriad of vegetables. Their beverages also feature unique options including an Ethiopian Honey wine, which is pure happiness and I highly recommend it. Normally, I order the Ethiopian spiced tea, which comes either hot or iced--it is beautiful and steeped with clove and other spices. After dinner, the Ethiopian coffee is a great way to end the meal, and is served in a traditional clay coffee pitcher--aesthetics with flavor, my favorite!

As usual, we could not decide which delectable dish to order, so we went with the Appetizer Sampler and the Tips and Vegetable Combination for two (even though we were three, we knew how much food they served!). Then we ordered the Ethiopian Iced Tea as a drink, free refills!!!

For the appetizer sampler, two types of wraps (Kosta and Fossolia), an injera salad (Timatim Fit-Fit), and your choice of "Sambussa" are involved. We chose the spicier lentil Sambussa, which I didn't find that spicy. As we soon found out, the appetizer is meant to share between two people. There was two of everything except the Timatim Fit-Fit (so much fun to say!) which comes in the middle and was quite easy to share. For the rest, we had to cut them up into smaller pieces, which wasn't too easy, but it was worth the effort.

We were given forks and knives for the appetizer course, but the main event is eaten with Injera--a spongy flat bread that you unroll and use to pinch up morsels (or handfuls) of delicious food. If you don't like to touch your food, you can request utensils, but you're taking all of the fun out of it!

Finally we get to the main event: the Tips and Vegetable Combination! A gigantic silver platter comes out lined in Injera and beautifully displayed with mounds of whatever you ordered. We ordered Doro tips (chicken), Atakilt (phenominal cabbage), Fossolia (mind-blowing green beans and carrots), and Alicha Sega Wot (a cumin scented beef stew). My personal favorites are the Atakilt and Fossolia. The spices they use to enhance the already loveable flavors of cabbage and green beans are impressive. They come out smooth and are a delightful combination with the tang of the Injera flatbread. I was not so excited about the chicken after I tried it, so I will go for the Sega (beef) tips next time. All in all, I loved it as usual.

Some interesting notes: Queen of Sheba has upped their customer service and I was very pleased by the entire experience. Before my only complaint was that the food came out very slow and there wasn't enough help in the front of the house. Now that has all changed and I don't have any complaints about this restaurant at all. Our waitress was very friendly and helpful. If you are intimidated by all of the Ethiopian words on the menu, have no fear--their is a key for translating and the waitstaff is very educated about everything on the menu. I highly recommend Queen of Sheba for unique dining, a warm ambiance, and seemingly endless Ethiopian cuisine!

Information: 2804 Taylorsville Road, Louisville
Phone: 502-459-6301

They also have a 2nd location only for lunch at 528 S. 5th St. Louisville

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