Have you ever gone to another country, sat down at a nice restaurant, then realize you have no idea what the hell is on the menu because it’s not in English? And at this point you’re all excited because this is what you wanted, a legit cultural experience (no English menus with pictures for you, no way), but at the same time you’re terrified you might order the fried beetles or something like that? Yeah, that’s how we felt when we sat down to eat with our friends Kirk and Nicole at Teff, an Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurant that recently opened in Stamford.
Sure, we’ve tried a lot of different foods in our day, but we had never had Ethiopian before, so we weren’t entirely sure what to expect. What we did know from a little pre-research is that instead of utensils, you rip off bits of special injera (crepe-like, spongy, and gluten-free made from the teff grain) and use them to scoop up your food. Aside from that, we really knew nothing, and that kind of excited us.
Immediately, we were put at ease by our waiter who took us through the menu and answered all of our questions. Speaking of the menu, it’s very interesting and so unlike any other type of restaurant. There are just two injera-based appetizers on the menu, the rest are portions of meat, veggies, stews, and sautees that come in platters on top of the injera. Most of the dishes are cooking for hours before you even get there at a pre-determined spice level, but if you order a “Tibs” dish, which are made to order, you get the option of mild, medium, or spicy (which actually isn’t too spicy at all). And, even with less options than we’re used to at other restaurants, there is sure to be something that appeals to you, even if you’re gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, or vegan.
Dan went with the Siga Altecha and the Dorho Wat for his meat entrees, and the Shiro, Dinich, and Ful as his three sides for ordering the meat tasting. What are those, you might ask? Read on Omnomivores, read on . . .
Siga Altecha: tender pieces of beef simmered in a mild sauce of Ethiopian curry powder, clarified spiced butter seasoned with garlic, rosemary, ginger and jalapenos (mild)
The steak was amazingly fragrant and had a nice undertone of butter and spices. There was a mild heat going on here, too, which made the meat even better. Some of the pieces were a bit closer to well-done rather than rare (most other cultures cook their meat more than us bloody steak loving Americans), but overall a great choice.
Dorho Wat: tender pieces of chicken leg and thigh slow-simmered in a spicy sauce seasoned with spices and herbs.
This is where it was at! Man, that chicken just fell right off the bone with a simple tug of the fork. And, in terms of flavor, awesome. It was rich, decadent, and had a nice spice level to it.
Shiro: pureed split peas cooked with red onions and garlic (mild.)
So silky smooth. Great by itself with some injera, or it was also nice to add with some of the steak or chicken. Cross pollination all the way.
Dinich: potatoes and cabbage simmered in a spicy sauce seasoned with spices and herbs (medium.)
Probably Dan’s least favorite. It was good, but needed some more flavor and salt. Still, it was good to mix it up with the other dishes.
Ful: fava beans slow-simmered with garlic and cumin topped with a colorful medley of red onions, tomatoes, and jalapenos, tossed with olive oil.
This was a great choice and had a burst of flavors like tangy, spicy, starchy, and acidic.
Kristien ordered the Bey’geh Tibs (spicy) and picked the Ingudai Tibs (medium) and Kik Aletcha as her two vegan sides.
Bey’geh Tibs: cubed lamb marinated and sauteed with berbere, clarified spiced butter, onions, garlic, jalapeños, fresh tomato, herbs and spiced
The lamb was nice and tender as it should be and the sauce was well-balanced with acidity from the tomato, a kick from the jalapeño, and a richness from the butter. And it had just the right amount of spices to give the dish a unique and distinct taste, without overpowering. Very delicious.
Ingudai Tibs: portobello mushrooms marinated and sautéed with red onions, garlic, jalapeño pepper, fresh tomato, herbs and spices
This was a great complement to the lamb, bringing a nice earthiness that was, again, rounded out with the tomatoes and jalapeños. Here, too, the spices were perfectly done.
Kik Aletcha: yellow split peas simmered in a mild and flavorful onion and herb sauce
This ended up serving as a great sort of condiment (like the consistency of hummus) to bring the two other parts of this dish together. With every piece of injeri, Kristien would grab a bit of this mild, rich, and creamy dish and then add the meat and veggies on top. It worked REALLY well.
Eating at Teff was a fun, interactive, and nomworthy experience that we definitely recommend. The food was excellent, the service was fantastic, prices were affordable ($120 for four people!) and the free BYOB experience can’t be beat. But, you best bring in all your bottles soon if that’s your style because they’ll soon have craft cocktails, world wines, and African beer starting on 3/30. Even still, BYOB will continue, but there will be a corkage fee of $25. All in, we are super excited to go back to try more dishes. You should most definitely dig on in, too!
Hours: 5-10, Wednesday-Sunday
Delivery and pick-up available
Address: 113 West Main Street
Stamford, CT 06902
Phone: (203) 998-7474