My first encounter with Ethiopian food was in college in Washington, D.C. Back then, I was astounded that people were eating food with their hands, and that culture shock probably explains why I never checked out another Ethiopian restaurant again, even in New York City where there are a few spots. One of them is Ghenet in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn. My wife Jun and I were meeting with her best friend in graduate school who is from Africa for a Sunday dinner, and the friend asked whether we would be up for Ethiopian cuisine. Jun had never tried the country’s food before and kept asking me how my experience was like; I shared the novelty of eating food with hands but couldn’t exactly describe what the taste was like. Anyways, we agreed to the proposition and met the friend at Ghenet. I certainly can attest that my experience here was more memorable in terms of the quality of food and Jun was pleasantly surprised how good the food she was having.
Ethiopian cooking is founded on the use of different spices that can bring flavor combinations to meats and vegetables, accompanied by the country’s flag bread called injera. The typical format is that you order a bunch of food that goes on top of a large bed of injera which you can tear off and dip the food with your hand. The menu at Ghenet initially overwhelmed us but our friend made some recommendations to make our lives easier. Surprisingly, the restaurant has vegetarian- and vegan-friendly options too, and you can order four different vegetable options for a price of $20 for one-person portion. Jun was genuinely excited after dipping a piece of injera on the lentils (misir wett) and spicy bean (shiro wett), both flavored with berbere sauce that is made of red chili powder seasoned with herbs and spices. The other vegetables of cabbage, potatoes and carrots (atkilt wett) and sautéed mushrooms (engoudaye tibs), which displayed milder spices, were also very good. The real star in our food, however, was the tender lamb morsels (yebeg tibs) marinated in wine. We do not actively seek lamb meat because of how it could smell funky, but the one at Ghenet, marinated in wine, didn’t display such quality and was quite rich and flavorful, and the meat displayed great texture. The portion of the entire food offerings was on the generous side, but Jun and I had no problem finishing them off, and Jun looked a happy baby that just discovered a new toy.
I’m not sure if our friend had to make a reservation at Ghenet; in any event, the unassuming yet charming dining space was nearly full during our meal so I would recommend booking in advance if possible, especially for a larger party. There is full bar at Ghenet, where you can try to the traditional Ethiopian honey wine that doesn’t strike you as too strong at first but overall may get you pretty buzzed after a few more sips. I’m very glad to have the opportunity to reconnect on my experience with Ethiopian food and Ghenet certainly makes a good case that the country’s cuisine deserves more recognition in the diverse dining scene of New York City. Jun and I certainly would love to come back with adventurous friends who are not afraid to try out new things in their culinary journey.
KenScale: 8.0/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.0/10)
- Creativity: 7.5/10
- Execution: 8.0/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 8.0/10
- Value: 8.0/10
Address: 348 Douglass Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217
Telephone: (718) 230-4475