Typical Eritrean food has some hits and some misses.
My sister was in town and she wanted Ethiopian food - one of the few cuisines she cannot easily get in the San Fernando Valley. So I decided to go to Shashamane International Bar and Grill, as I had a "gift certificate" for $25 off $35 or more, which I'd gotten at restaurant.com for $2. Unfortunately, once we got there (a Thursday night in April 2009) we realized that Shashamane is clearly a spot for twenty-somethings; there were plenty of people standing up drinking (which makes me wonder why Shashamane needs the traffic from restaurant.com), not an appropriate environment as we had my kids along. So we went hunting for another Ethiopian restaurant on Telegraph Ave., where many are located, and came upon Asmara.
Asmara is a relatively modest restaurant, offering standard Ethiopian food at only slightly high prices. There isn't much of an atmosphere in the place, the cheaply 70's style paneled walls are covered by some Ethiopian paintings and art, but they do little to add some style to the glass-top tables and cheap chairs. This is not a place you come to for the ambiance.
The food, on the other hand, was pretty good, if still average for local Ethiopian restaurants. We ordered the combination ($12), which includes Ziggni (srips of marinated beef, cooked in berbere sauce and spices), Doro Watt (spicy chicken cooked in berbere sauce), and Ye-Beg Alicha (cubes of lamb, stewed with curry and spices) and the Yebeg Tibs ($12 - boneless strips of lamb simmered with onion, butter, and mild spices). Neither the ziggni nor the doro wat were particularly spicy, even Kathy, who does not like spicy food, had no problems eating them. They were pretty good. The yebeg alicha, on the other hand, was completely mild and delicious, with a very well balanced sauce. Even my 7 year-old was happy to eat it. Unfortunately the yebeg tibs were a disappointment - they had very little flavor and they were pretty tough. I would not order them again. The meal was served family style with cooked potatoes & carrots (which nobody tried), and a lettuce & tomato salad which Mika (my 7 year-old) liked. There was some crumbly cheese in the middle which both of the kids ate.
As you can expect, the meal was served with teff injera. The injera was well made, spongy and lightly sour, but it was served cold, not even room temperature. That was definitely a problem.
With dinner, we ordered an Asmara's Comfort ($2.50 - banana, coconut milk, orange juice, mixed fruits, and honey) and an Asmara's Delight ($2.50 - fruit juice, banana, and honey), but I was disappointed with both, as they were quite watery. A glass of orange juice tasted canned.
5020 Telegraph Avenue
Oakland , CA