Saturday, March 10, 2007

Zoma Ethiopian Food Good, Not Great

I like Ethiopian food. What could be better than raw meat, spongy bread, and spices covered in mushed up lentils? For many years the lovely wife and I have been going to Awash, on Amsterdam Avenue at 106th Street. The food has been consistently excellent, although, truth be told, the place can be a bit depressing at times. So we were really excited to hear about Zoma, which opened recently at 113th Street and Frederick Douglas Blvd (8th Ave). With some of our Upper-Upper Westside friends, we went out and tried it.

Without a doubt, the space is much prettier than Awash. It actually seems like a real restaurant, with white walls, high ceilings, and seductive lighting. There is a happening bar scene. The service is perfectly pleasant, if a bit confused the night we went. Having said that, the food, while good, was overall not as good as that at Awash, several blocks away.

We started out with the Azifa salad, which consisted of lentils with onions and peppers. It is served on a with injera (the spongy bread), as were all of the other dishes we ate. The Azifa salad was tasty, but similar enough to the main dishes we ordered that I do not think I would get it again.

For main dishes we ordered the two meat sampler combinations and the vegetarian sampler combination. We also ordered an entree sized order of kitfo (spiced raw beef), Doro Alitcha (a stew), misir wett, and gomen (collard greens). One thing I will note is that even though there were six of us, and we theoretically ordered food for ten people, almost every drop was consumed. One of the combination plates is pictured, and, as you can see, there's a lot of air and not much protein. The food is rather inexpensive, but its better to know so you don't feel the need to order more or find a slice after you leave. Better dishes that we ate include the yebeg alitcha (lamb), the gomen, all of the lentil dishes, and the doro wett. Although, having said that, a good chunk of our doro wett was actually a hard boiled egg (see white thing on photo), which I had no problems eating with no utensils, but I wasn't looking in the mirror while I did it. Oh, and the kitfo was too mushy.

All in all I liked Zoma. The food was good, the service a bit slow, but the room was quite pretty (if cramped and hot). Having said that, I will likely continue to get my Ethiopian Fix at Awash, where I like the food better.

Other postings I found:

Uptown Flavor (this includes a nice picture of the room)
Harlem Fur
Official Web Site of Zoma

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