Portland's newest Ethiopian spot is also the ritziest. Last year, Abyssinian Kitchen took over the old house off Southeast Clinton Street that formerly contained the much-missed Sok Sab Bai.
This homey, earth-toned space serves Ethiopian and Eritrean dishes like tilapia stew, sauteed lamb and slow-cooked lentils, all plated on a very tangy version of injera, the spongy brown sourdough pancake that doubles as silverware. Abyssinian Kitchen is a very good restaurant—the only credible challenger to Enat Kitchen (see page 88) for the title of the city's best.
Meats here are "ethically raised," produce is local, and the spices are blended in-house. You can taste the difference, but will also notice it on the check—it opened as the most expensive Ethiopian spot in town, then raised its prices.
Tilapia is a common protein in Ethiopian cuisine—the country's fisheries are all freshwater—but Abyssinian stands out with the excellent asa dulet ($11), a light, bright preparation of crumbled flesh seasoned with serrano peppers and onions. I also liked the siga and gomen ($12), which I haven't encountered elsewhere in Portland. Gristly beef short ribs are cut into slivers the width of a wooden nickel and fried on the bone with collard greens in herbed butter. You have to fight for every scrap of meat, but the warming herb and fat flavors are incredible, especially on the greens. You'd need at least one other meat and a veggie combination to make a two-person meal with this dish, but you won't be disappointed.
GO: 2625 SE 21st Ave., 503-894-8349, abyssiniankitchen.com. 4-10 pm Tuesday-Friday, 11 am-10 pm Saturday-Sunday. $$$.
Eat: Siga and gomen ($13), asa dulet ($13) and the vegetarian combo known as beyaynetu ($16).
Drink: The tea spiced with cinnamon and cloves ($3).
Most popular dish: Kilwa beggie, a sauteed lamb dish.
Noise level: 35/100
Expected wait: Usually none.
Who you'll eat with: Peace Corp veterans and the people who live in the large old bungalow on Clinton.
Year opened: 2015