Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Restaurant Reviews: Sheba and Queen of Sheba

by Priyanka posted at 12:41 PM 2 comments

I have been meaning to do restaurant reviews- not with the sole purpose of rating restaurants but to help out other food lovers like us have an enjoyable dining experience. But for some or the other reason never got around to it. Also i invariably forget to take pictures when we dine out. As i have mentioned in my earlier posts, there are not a lot of dining out options here in Fort Lauderdale, especially if you are a vegetarian or if you are interested in experimenting with different cuisines. When we first moved to Florida, we tried searching for different restaurants/different cuisines and since we had no one to guide us- we ended up with some good and bad experiences. So without further ado let me tell you about my experiences at these Ethiopian restaurants. When it comes to Ethiopian cuisine, it ranks high among our favorites. The first time i had Ethiopian food was at a small but wonderful restaurant in Raleigh...i dont even recollect the name of it. But it was P's favorite when he attended NCSU. We have so far tried out 2 Ethiopian places- the nearest one in Miami is called Sheba...and the other one called Queen of Sheba (the two are not related in any wa) is located in Tampa. Both of them are wonderful in their own unique way.


4029 N. Miami Ave, Miami, FL 33137
TEL: 305-573-1819

The first thing that comes to mind when you enter is the ambience. This is one upscale place with a good crowd, good music, wine and food. This is THE PLACE for a young and hip crowd. They also have live music over the weekends for which they charge extra. The restaurant also has an adjoining artroom which showcases the arts and crafts from Ethiopia- beautiful but expensive.

To begin with-it was quite some while before our server arrived to take our orders after we were seated. But after that he was pretty gracious and the service was good and prompt. Since i am not much of a wine person, i decided to go with the less intense White Zinfandel while P had the Pinot Noir. For appetisers we ordered the Zaalouk which is eggplants sauteed in a blend of spices. This was the perfect starter to the meal. Pretty similar to the Indian flavors (i would say a whole lot like the eggplant sabzi we usually make), this dish was cooked just perfect. For our entrees we ordered separate dishes (FYI: Sharing involves additional charge and so is an order for a group of more than 4). P ordered a chicken entree while I ordered vegetarian. Each entree is accompanied by 2 vegetarian side dishes and Injera (Ethiopian bread). The Doro Wat which is what P ordered is Ethiopia’s national dish comprising of chicken legs and thighs marinated and seasoned with garlic, fresh ginger and fenugreek; and stewed in spicy berbere sauce. To accompany this entree P ordered Gomen Wat (collard greens sauted with Ethiopian spices) and Shiro Wat (Pureed split peas cooked with Ethiopian spices). The Shiro Wat had a sweet taste to it and paired up beautifully with the chicken. However the Gomen was not something that we were taken too (it lacked spice and flavor needed to appease to the Indian palate). For my main entree i ordered the Ful (Ethiopian fava beans cooked with tomatoes, onions and hot green peppers and spices) which was just what i needed to complete my meal. For my side dishes i opted for the (Atakilt Wat – Fresh string beans, carrots, potatoes, cabbage and onions sautéed with garlic, ginger, and tomatoes) and Gomen Wat. Both of them did not match up to the expectations. In hindsight i should have ordered another lentil dish (they had different variations on the menu). I believe their selection of non-vegetarian dishes is varied and interesting - ranging from lamb, chicken and seafood options. The appetizer, Doro Wat and the Ful were amazing and married beautifully with the wines. So all in all, a good enjoyable meal. However we have had better Ethiopian food elsewhere.

CONS: Expensive (But then what do you expect with it being the only Ethiopian restaurant in South Florida and so close to South Beach)
Parking: A big hassle. There are parking meters on the side lanes and you might be lucky to find an empty spot close by when its dark and raining which is the norm in S. Florida.

Queen of Sheba

3636 Henderson Blvd.Tampa, FL
TEL: 813-872-6000

This is one of the best Ethiopian places to eat at- my first impression- homely, comforting and enjoyable. We were spending the weekend with friends in Tampa, when we decided on the spur of the moment to try out this restaurant. We called them up to confirm if they were open and set off for our late lunch (it was 2:30 by the time we reached there). However when we reached there, we found the restaurant closed - only to find that it would open at 4:00 pm (it was a Sunday). Not to give up on a delightful weekend lunch of some soul-comforting food, we called up the restaurant and told them that we were waiting outside (P's idea). The restaurant is family owned and the owner was gracious enough to open it up for us. The decor is that of a small charming family-owned restaurant-which is what Queen of Sheba is.

Tina, a good friend of ours and I decided to stick to plain water (we did not want to kill our appetite nor were we in the mood for any drinks). P and his friend ordered an Ethiopian beer (owner-recommended) and soon gave it rave reviews. For appetisers we ordered the vegetarian Sambussa (which is pretty similar to the Indian samosa albeit with the filling of lentils cooked in spices) and Buticha (Ground chickpeas mixed with olive oil, diced onions, garlic, hot peper and mustard). Both the appetisers were out-of-the-world delicious. The mustard lent a tangy, spicy taste to the chickpeas, while the sambussa had a sweetish aftertaste to it (though not in a bad way). Thereafter we ordered the main entrees which were vegetarian and shared (although there's an additional charge/number of persons sharing, the combination platters are not that expensive). The vegetarian platter consisted of a combination of misr wot(red split lentils in berbere sauce), ye kik alecha (yellow split peas with spices), atikilt alecha (Carrot, potato and string beans stewed in a mild sauce) and Gomen (collard greens) with double helpings of whichever dish we asked for and accompaniments of Injera. The misr wot, gomen and alecha were absolutely delicious- each of the flavors was unique in its own way. The owner and his staff were very gracious and the service was excellent. Parking should not be a problem since the restaurant has its own parking lot (but the space is small. Also since we were the only customers at that time, i do not know if it gets overcrowded). Its not at all expensive and the food is excellent. So eating at Queen of Sheba is a win-win experience for both the palate and the purse.

Comments 2 comments
Usha said...

Sounds like you had a delightful experience :-)

Sangeeth said...

I love your blog template yaar! and a very good post!

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