We have been enjoying Ethiopian cuisine for many years. The flavor profiles are similar to that of Indian cuisine, yet prepared in a manner where the two are easily distinguishable. Last year, while covering the 4th Annual Ethiopian Fest in Chicago (https://youtu.be/6m-k_bm2mDc), we discovered Demera Ethiopian Restaurant, located at 4801 N. Broadway in the Uptown Neighborhood of Chicago, so we decided to give Demera a visit and sample what they have to offer. Owner, Tigist Reda, and her staff have created a very inviting and authentic Ethiopian dining experience. The first thing to note about Ethiopian dining is that eating is hands-on…literally. No forks, spoons or knives are required, just your God-given eating utensils. This “hands-on”-style of dining is part and parcel to the fun and uniqueness of eating Ethiopian food.
We started our dining journey with the Appetizer Messob, which consists of five sambussas, served alongside skillet-baked Ambasha bread. A sambussa is very similar to Indian samosas. They are fried dumplings with savory fillings. Demera offers chicken, beef, cheese, spinach or lentils as fillings, and they are served with a spicy honey awaze sauce. The dough of the sambussas was flaky and soft (like a filo dough), each filling complementing this flaky goodness to perfection, the chicken and lentils being the standouts. The shredded chicken was very well seasoned with a hint of heat, and the lentils exploded with flavor and just melted in our mouths. The spicy awaze dipping sauce rendered a sweet heat that propelled the sambussas to a whole ‘nother level of flavor. Awaze is a traditional Ethiopian condiment made with berbere, oil, and honey. Ambasha bread is a traditional Ethiopian bread popular in northern Ethiopia but eaten nationwide. The Ambasha bread is dense with a slight fruity flavor and came with a farmer’s cheese spread that had collard greens, butter and cardamom infused throughout. OMG, the flavors in this cheese spread really popped. It was fresh; the collards adding its herbaceous distinctiveness, while the cardamom added an earthy, warm note. Just slather this cheese spread on the Ambasha bread and have at it. To say this cheese spread is delicious is an understatement.
For our entrée, we ordered the Demera Messob, for two. This consisted of three proteins and three vegetables, all beautifully served atop injera bread. Injera is another Ethiopian staple, best described as a crepe-like, spongy, sourdough flatbread made from teff flour. We ordered chicken, lamb and beef and our veggies were red lentils, yellow split peas and collard greens, showcasing an array of culinary colors. Tear off a piece of injera, grab some food – with your fingers, of course – and explore the world of Ethiopian cuisine. (Make sure you watch our video link to Demera). The sponginess of the injera soaks up all the juices from the foods and makes for a delightfully delectable bite. All three proteins were well executed, but the lamb really stood out to us. Chunks of tender lamb in a rich and savory gravy, sopped up with the injera bread, had us saying, “mmm, mmm good!” The collard greens are made with garlic and ginger and were super tasty. The yellow split peas were silky and on point. The red lentils, however, are in a category of flavor that makes you want to shout. These tasty legumes are stewed in a ten-spice blend, layered with palate-pleasing flavors.
With Ethiopia being the origin of the coffee plant and producing some of the world’s finest beans, we capped off our meal with one of the best cups of coffee we have had in a while.
The cuisine at Demera is great for meat lovers and vegetarians alike. The atmosphere is warm and relaxing with top-notch service. Though parking may be a bit cumbersome, do yourself a favor and step out of your comfort zone and try something new. Demera is like a wonderful new friend waiting to be met.
We rank restaurants based on number of kisses (one thru five, with five being the best.) Demera Ethiopian Restaurant receives 4 kisses. Check out the video of our review at https://youtu.be/iXbCTOWRtIQ
The Black Foodies are food bloggers/vloggers and husband and wife of 25 years. We are also home cooks who believe in group economics and LOVE great food. We write the food blog “Let’s Eat,” where we review Black-owned and other ethnic restaurants. FOLLOW us on Instagram and Twitter @theblackfoodies, SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube Channel “The Black Foodies,” where we review restaurants, share recipes, and give cooking tips. https://youtu.be/f1fsSQ24wgQ. Also LIKE us on Facebook and join our Facebook group, “World Wide Black Foodies.”
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