Thursday, December 8, 2011

Vegan Chicago: Restaurant Review of Ethiopian Diamond

Spinach, Lentil, & Potato + Carrot Sambusa
Yatkilt Watt
If you have never had Ethiopian food, you must try it! I always take guests to Ethiopian Diamond for their first taste of this delicacy. While there are other Ethiopian restaurants in the city such as Demera and Ras Dashen, I primarily go to Ethiopian Diamond. When I lived in Roger's Park, this was so close that I never really ventured further to Edgewater and Uptown to try the other two places. Ethiopian food is very naturally vegan-friendly. They serve food in a communal-style way. Everything is eaten with your hands by using a certain bread called injera bread (it is somewhat like crepe sourdough bread). Greens, potatoes, and lentils are a big component of vegan Ethiopian cooking. Another must is the Ethiopian spice mix, berbere. I have tried making injera on my own and it was a total disaster. Luckily, if you want to have your own Ethiopian feast at home, there are a number of African groceries in Roger's Park & Edgewater where you can buy injera.

Towards the end of the menu at Ethiopian Diamond, there is a whole page of vegetarian selections. They are all vegan! One can choose any of these entrees, a combination, or a "Taste of Ethiopia" for one or two people. To start, I love to get the veggie combo sambusa. If you've never had sambusa, they are basically like a flat, triangular samosa. The veggie combo includes the lentil, spinach, and the potato and carrot sambusa's.

Veggie Combo with Injera Bread
For entree's, I usually go with a friend and get two orders of the veggie combo. It is cheaper than getting the "Taste of Ethiopia" for two people. We get six of the seven options to choose from on the combo. The options we usually get are the yemisir watt (spicy red lentils), kik alicha (split peas in sauce), gomen (collard greens), tikel gomen (cabbage and carrots), yatkilt watt (string beans, carrots, and potatoes in sauce), and dinich alicha (potatoes and carrots in sauce). The seventh option is quosta (spinach). This whole dinner comes on a large platter a top of injera bread with a salad in the middle. I love the salad dressing at Ethiopian Diamond! They also bring extra bread to eat the dishes. My favorite is the gomen. I really love greens, though. My friend's favorite is the yemisir watt, but he loves spicy foods.

There is also a special dish on the vegetarian menu which I have never tried. It is the shimbra assa. It is chick pea dough that is formed to look like fish watt (stew). There is also the tofu tibs which is grilled tofu with vegetables in a sauce. I'm usually way too full for dessert, but I believe all the desserts have honey in them.

Tikel Gomen
Dinich Alicha
On Friday's and Saturdays, there is usually a live band playing Ethiopian music at the Broadway location. There is another location on Clark St. near the Howard Red Line stop (Ethiopian Diamond II).

I give Ethiopian Diamond a 4.5/5 stars. They loose half a star because it can be really busy sometimes and the wait staff suffers in service. If you get the chance to try Ethiopian food, I strongly recommend it! It is one of my favorite types of food, for sure.

Kik Alicha
ETA: Oddly enough, I decided to use my Groupon I had for Demera last night (was going to Drew's Eatery, but it has sadly closed). We had the veggie sampler sambusa which were spinach and lentil. They were more flaky than the ones at Ethiopian Diamond and the sauce was spicier. Overall, I think I liked Demera's more. The entree was similar to what I get at Ethiopian Diamond - a mix of six different dishes with a salad in the middle. I finally had shimbra assa! I really loved it. Definitely a fan. Overall, I prefer Ethiopian Diamond's entree dishes to Demera. The ones at Ethiopian Diamond are much more flavorful and robust. The salad dressing is better there too (I really like salads!). It wasn't bad by any means, just comparing the two, I did not prefer it. The Groupon came with a dessert, so we had a dessert sambusa. Be warned it comes with raspberry sauce and a load of white chocolate sauce and whipped cream which I didn't realize. I was told the sambusa was vegan, so I had a few bites of it with raspberry sauce. It was also very flaky like the appetizer sambusa's. It was filled with an almond paste type thing which was the perfect amount of sweet. I give Demera a 3.5/5 stars. If Ethiopian Diamond is super busy (which it tends to be on a weekend night) and you don't want to drive all the way to the Howard stop, I would check out Demera. Plus, The Green Mill is just across the way. Love that place!

Also, I stopped by Tai Nam Market last night after I wrote about how many mock meat options they sell in my previous post. Wow, Yelp was right! They had three freezers full of all kinds of faux meat. Be warned, some of it has eggs and whey powder in it. So, not everything is vegan, though it is vegetarian. I ended up getting a bunch of things because weird mock meats kind of make my laugh and hey, it's vegan. I got "chicken", "pork", and "shrimp". They also had vegan pork belly, salted fish fillets, tuna slices, etc. It is worth going there just to check out the crazy selection they have. Vegan mutton, anyone? It's there.


Imperfections said...

Now I just have to find an Ethiopian restaurant in my area.I'm a little afraid it's going to be too spicy.

Miss Lexy said...

It usually isn't spicy! Even the dishes marked "spicy" tend to be pretty mild overall. I'd say between mild and medium in spice level. I am not a fan of spice myself, so I understand how you feel!

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