Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Veg Out: Almaz Cafe
When one of the foodie elite gives me a personal recommendation, I listen. I don't exactly jump. When another trusted food type seconds the restaurant, on a separate occasion, I not only listen. I place it a little higher on my Veg Out queue. So it was for Almaz Cafe.
Part sleepy coffeeshop on the bottom level, dining alcove above, Almaz doesn't quite scream that their Ethiopian provisions are upper-shelf. In a part of town that doesn't offer much of any African cuisine, it helps just to show up. Or meet my ass halfway, because I do not want a West Philly commute.
Drinking coffee is not a bad idea here, as coffee originates from Ethiopia (the more you know!) and the stimulant on pour at Almaz is well-chosen. That said, if Almaz was simply a coffee stockist, it would not turn heads.
The reserved placard on the table of four upstairs winked at me. There's mostly dining counter space there, so some smart bastards with great ideas did a little planning. I dismissed the American menu, as one often should, and called on an iced coffee stat. Strong.
The Vegetarian Combination promised a sampling of three dishes, so I sprang for that. The Kik-Alchia, turmeric-dashed yellow split peas, was mellow but comforting. I could go for an entire plate of it, easy. Misir was spicier and meaty, berbere lifting up the split red lentils. Sauteed greens balanced it out. Finally, a dish of Tikil Gomen was the highlight, buttery potatoes and cabbage with a gingery sauce. The magic is already laid out on injera bread that I couldn't finish, but it comes with an extra side of the spongy dough that you're supposed to eat with instead of a fork. I'm not crazy about injera. I used the fork, and then headed off to dance class well-fueled.
I hate to be the ninth person to say it, but YOU NEED TO GO.
Almaz Cafe, 140 S 20th St.