Sunday, February 26, 2012

Abay Ethiopian Cuisine (East Liberty)

Update: Abay is closed.

Our trip to Abay Ethiopian Cuisine in East Liberty was one I had been anticipating for a long time as R. loves Ethiopian food and I had been looking forward to taking him there.  We finally made it there last Saturday as a little treat after spending a busy day out and about.

I love the menu at Abay, not just because of its intriguing offerings, but also for the background information and even humorous commentary it provides.  I learned that "Abay" in the Ethiopian language of Amharic is the name for the Blue Nile, which is one of two main rivers that feed into the Nile and originates in Lake Tana in Ethiopia.  As 80% of the Nile is sourced from Abay, this name was chosen for the restaurant "because it is a main source of nourishment for the Nile."  That's neat!  A section on "how to eat" explains that Ethiopian food is enjoyed communal style because of the culture's emphasis on community.  The humorous part was the section describing its BYOB policy: "Since wine may...lead you to believe the person you are with is more attractive or engaging than he or she actually is, drinking it responsibly with your meal is encouraged." :)

It didn't take us long to decide what we wanted to order: two combination platters, so we could try a number of different items.  Between the two of us, we ordered a one-person portion of Vegetarian Sampler, which included a choice of any four vegetarian entrees on the menu, and a one-person portion of the Combination Sampler, which included a combination of any four meat or vegetarian entrees.  So between the two of us, we got to try eight different items!

Here are the four vegetarian items we chose and their menu descriptions:

  1. Inguday Wat:  Fresh mushrooms and brown lentils simmered in a spicy berbere sauce.
  2. Kay Sir Dinich:  Potatoes and fresh beets showed and blended with garlic, ginger, and onions.
  3. Ayib Be Gomen:  Fresh collard greens blended with Abay's homemade cheese.
  4. Fosolia:  String beans lightly spiced and sauteed with carrots, onions, and potatoes.

Vegetable Sampler and Combination Platter at Abay
Vegetarian Sampler ($12)
L-R: Inguday Wat, Kay Sir Dinich, Ayib Be Gomen, Fosolia

The four meat entrees and their menu descriptions are as follows:

  1. Poulet a la Sauce d'Arachide: This was a special of the evening, and consisted of chicken in peanut sauce.
  2. Zilzil Tibs: Strips of tender, lean beef sauteed with homemade awaze, peppers, onions, and herbs.
  3. Doro Minchet Abish: Boneless, skinless chicken breast diced and simmered in a berbere stew.
  4. Gomen Besiga: Lean, cubed beef slow-cooked and blended with kale, peppers, ginger, garlic, and onions.

Vegetable Sampler and Combination Platter at Abay
Combination Sampler ($14.50)
Counterclockwise from L: Poulet a la Sauce d'Arachide, Zilzil Tibs,
Doro Mihcet Abish, Gomen Besiga

In addition, our wonderful and attentive server, Britney, brought us samples of yellow split peas, lentils, and beef in berbere stew (Minchet Abish).  The platter comes standard with injera (soft, spongy flatbread) which you tear off and use to pick up the fillings, but it looks like they are willing to provide utensils and rice instead for those squeamish about eating with their hands.  We pretty much loved everything.  Our favorite was by far the chicken special - I wonder if we can petition to have it promoted to the permanent menu? ;)  I also particularly enjoyed zilzil tibs, inguday wat, kay sir dinich, and the minchet abish sample, but everything else was fantastic as well.  Some of the items were listed as "spicy" on the menu, but I didn't think they were all that spicy.  I think my recent habit of eating spicy food is changing my heat perception!

When we were done with our platter (of which we had leftovers), Britney asked if we wanted dessert.  I was really full, but foolishly asked to see the dessert menu anyway.  And, as soon as I asked for the dessert menu, I knew I would order something.  Luckily, R. and I have pretty similar tastes in desserts, so we split the Pumpkin Sambussa and Scoop - two pieces of sambussa stuffed with pumpkin and spices, served with our choice of ice cream (we picked ginger), and drizzled with either honey or chocolate (we went for chocolate).  It was delicious, and I have to say, as an ice cream snob who generally doesn't like anything other than Jeni's, I was pleasantly surprised by the ginger ice cream which is from Dave & Andy's.

Pumpkin Sambussa and Scoop at Abay
Pumpkin Sambussa and Scoop ($5.50)

We both enjoyed Abay tremendously, and we are glad that there is great Ethiopian food to be had in Pittsburgh!

Restaurant info:
Abay Ethiopian Cuisine
130 S Highland Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15206
On the web:
Bonus: BYOB ($2.50 per bottle corkage fee)

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