Thursday, May 5, 2011

Review - Asmara, East African Cuisine

i felt like eating with my hands. so i yelped and i yelped and i yelped, i came upon this place. Asmara East African Food in City Heights. it looked cheap, it had good reviews on yelp, and allison was in the mood for ethnic food. so we set off! set on University right off the 15, it was sitting there next to a check cashing place i think? it was dark so i couldnt tell. as i pulled into the parking lot on the back side of the restaurant, i noticed there was 2 taxi cabs among the cars parked there. we walked into a damn near empty restaurant except for a group of fancy looking girls (and one gay guy) having a birthday party in the corner, and a bar filled with old ass african dudes chilling, drinking african beer and watching the Lakers - Mavs game. they were speaking a foreign language, but i could basically tell that they werent happy with Kobe's jumpshot. we got out menus and i had basically already decided on out orders before i left the house. for drinks someone on yelp praised the Honey Wine. so i ordered a glass.
it looked refreshing, so i dove right in. um. yea. basically it smelled of nail polish remover, and tasted like a combination of well vodka and cheap whiskey. not. a. fan. but i digress. allison only wanted water, so he dropped us two glasses of this stuff. allison took a sip, looked at me and said "taste the water"....uh oh.
cinnamon??? the water??? ok, so at SOME POINT, the jug of water they had, has been infused with cinnamon stick. because this water, tasty exactly like it had cinnamon stick in it. which we both found slightly distrubing, yet...pretty fuckin tasty! it was refreshing and different. way better then stupid lemon slices floating in the water. fuck that. we doin cinnamon, son! anyway, we started with an order of Veggie Sambusas(2.50):
they came out hot, they pastry was flaky and seasoned, and the filling which mainly consisted of lentils and a little potato, was pretty good. it was simple, but had alot going on. lots of different spices in that mix. and it wasnt just some smashed together lentil goo, there were full lentils all up in there. the red sauce was essentially cumin-paprika oil. thats all it was. but it worked well with the sambusas. for my entree, i wanted to try it all, so i got the Meat Combination Platter (12.95) which looked like this
now, as i said earlier, i wanted to eat with my hands. there are no forks, no spoons, no knives, nothing on  any of the tables. which is great, because you see that thing underneith all the meats? thats what you eat with. also they give you all these on the side as well
its called injera. its a very airy-yeasty-sour-pancake if you will. its tangy when you eat it by itself, but once you start picking shit up with it, you get it. ok, so i dont recall what everything was that i was eating, i just know it all tasted different, and it was all fucking awesome. ill try to recall though
this was a braised lamb stew of some sort. despite the fact that it looks like a dog turd, it was very flavorful and quite spicy, as in hot. it was delicious.
on top there was a cubed grilled beef dish which was the least spicy of the group, but it was very heavy of spices, yet seasoned perfectly and not overcooked! the bottom one there was a grilled lamb dish that was a medium spicy level and was also nicely cooked and well seasoned. also on the plate was a salad of pickled cucumbers, onions and lettuce. once again, seasoned, and it popped! the fresh crunch of the salad was a real nice balance when eaten with the meats.

now a little less carnivorous on the other side of the table, allison got the Veggie Combination Platter (12.95)
hers also came with its own plate of rolled injera. there was no shortage on injera, ill tell you what. so if i can remember correctly, the top green stuff was braised collard greens. they were slightly sweet and fairly butter, they were good. then on the top right, was some sort of potato and carrot dish, i actually didnt try that. i probably should have.
the front right here was a yellow lentil dish that wasnt very spicy but wasnt short on flavor. the lentils were cooked nicely, not all mish mashed like most places crank em out. im not sure what the middle left dish up there was, but that was allisons favorite i believe.
then this one was some sort of spicy bean dish, alli didnt care much for this one because it was the spiciest thing on her plate and she doesnt care for too much spicy. i enjoyed that one quite a bit though.

so, all in all, this places is doing the right things. the same things i get preached to about at work every single day. and that is this, proper seasoning and balanced flavors will take you a loooong way. everything we ate tonight was seasoned properly, it all had lots of flavor, and nothing was over/undercooked! it all had balance and the tanginess of the injera bread really ate well with everything. next time i can do with out the honey wine since i barely touched it and at 5 bucks a glass, its a bomber. ill probably skip on appetizers next time as well, the combination platters are alot of food. it doesnt look like much, but factoring in some injera with every bite, its alot haha. we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. we will be back, for sure.

Asmara East African Cuisine
4155 University St. (between 42nd and Marlborough)
San Diego, CA, 92105


  1. Hi Travis - Thanks so much for the link! Next time check out the Kitfo at Asmara!

  2. for sure, kirk! love your work you do on there. mmm yoso is actually what made me decide to start blogging about food. thank for the link on your site!