Queen of Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant
650 Tenth Avenue
New York, NY
(212) 397-0610 | Map
Here it is, June, and I'm only now getting around to writing up my review of the April meeting of the Lehigh Dinner Club. I could have just scrapped the review since a) so much time has passed between then and now and b) the food was not that memorable, but a certain member of the Dinner Club (*cough*Brian*cough*) inquired about the write-up at our May meeting (which, of course, needs a write-up of its own), so I feel obligated to say something. There are quite a few favorable reviews about the restaurant out there, so I'm going to chalk our dinner up to an "off night."
I arrived to find that I was the first of our party to reach the restaurant. Although we had a reservation, the hostess informed me that I would have to wait at the bar before being seated. That would have been all right with me had she not asked me to move... twice... ultimately directing me to the chair at the end of the bar. I was about to tell her that if she had wanted me to sit at the end of the bar, she should have just said so up front. Thankfully, Brian arrived before I could open my mouth.
To start and to be as authentic as possible, Brian and I each ordered a glass of the Royal Mead - Honey Wine ($7). Kym and I decided to skip appetizers, but Brian generously shared the Lentil Sambousa he ordered.
Much like Indian samosas, the Sambousa were triangular in shape, stuffed with a savory mixture of vegetables and spices, and deep-fried. The Sambousa were served with a smoky sauce that complimented the filling quite nicely. We all enjoyed the flavors and the texture and appreciated that they weren't too greasy or heavy despite being fried. Unfortunately, for me, that's where the pleasurable dining experience started to drop off.
Because Brian and I couldn't decide what we wanted to order, we chose to split the Sheba Combination Sampler Dishes. Brian ordered the Taste of Sheba, which offered Tibs Wot, Menchet Abesh Wot, Mechet Abesh Alecha, Gomen Besiga, Bozena Shiro, Yebeg Wot, and Yebeg Alecha. I ordered the Sheba Vegetarian Mesob, which offered Misir Wot, Ater Kik Alecha, Shiro, Shimbra Asa, Gomen Wot, Atakilt Wot, and Cabbage Wot. (For an explanation of all of those dishes, click here.) If you've never had Ethiopian food before, then I highly recommend going this route, as the platters give you the opportunity to have a taste of some of the traditional dishes. Throw in the Doro Tibs (chicken dish) that Kym ordered, and you have quite a bit of food for relatively little money. An even better deal if you're sharing with a group of friends.
We opted to have all of the food served together on a communal tray lined with injera. One of the drawbacks to this, however, was not knowing what we were eating. Aside from being told that the vegetarian dishes were on one side of the tray and the meat dishes were on the other, we didn't know what was what.
Kym's choice for dinner was very good, deliciously flavored and not overwhelmingly spicy. I was, unfortunately, underwhelmed by the rest of the food. I found a lot of the beef overcooked, tough, and unpleasant to eat. And the vegetarian dishes were just okay. As I said earlier, the food wasn't that memorable. Except for the part when I shredded the inside of my cheek from a sharp bone fragment in one of the meat dishes (don't ask me which one because I have absolutely no idea). The faint taste of my own blood in my mouth may have ruined the rest of the meal for me.
In an attempt to end the meal on a positive note, we ordered Ethiopian coffee (though, I think Brian may have ordered an Espresso) and dessert. Kym ordered the Creme Caramel and I ordered the Baklava. Unfortunately, our server, who had been rather inattentive throughout our entire meal, brought out a plate of their Rum Cake. I had to flag her down to get her attention to request the dessert I actually ordered.
When their menu said their Baklava is "soaked in honey and almond syrup," they weren't kidding. The layers of pastry were absolutely saturated. Trying to eat the Baklava was like trying to cut through soggy corrugated cardboard and then trying to eat that. I labored through three bites of it before I gave up.
Seeing as the restaurant has received positive reviews, I don't want to write Queen of Sheba off completely, especially since I really enjoy Ethiopian food. If I ever do go back there, I'll pray that the quality of the service and the quality of the food has improved.
Hmm... It looks like I didn't have any trouble finding something to say after all.
(PS. Have you entered the Zagat.com Premium Membership Giveaway yet?)