Nobody likes a sad, skinny baby...nobody!
Whether I’m ordering a meal at a restaurant or cooking up something at home, enjoying what I eat brings me immense satisfaction. On the other hand, being disappointed in a meal sends me into tantrum mode.
I expect certain things out of a dining experience. I’m realistic about the standards I hold for each place, from the local taco bar to the five star steak house. What I've decided is that it's about a perfect balance between service, food quality, ambiance and price. That may seem like a lot to juggle, but Houston is a big city with a plethora of restaurants to choose from. There’s no reason to expect anything less than the best.
If you strip my needs down to the bare essentials, you'll find I'm very much like a baby; I love tasty food and I love to be happy. If an experience doesn't generate a sense of fulfillment for those two basic needs...you're gonna hear me cry.
Nobody likes a sad, skinny baby...nobody!
Blue Nile - Give it A Try
The Skinny: While it may take you a while to drive to Blue Nile, this Ethiopian Cuisine is well worth the trouble.
The Fat: It is officially located in America, but Blue Nile is -in fact- outside the loop. This may seem like "destination dining" to us spoiled folks living in Monstrose - a mere stone's throw from a bazillion fine restaurants. Just put a few extra bucks in the old gas guzzler, plan for a little trip and consider it an adventure.
I tend to be a tad skittish when I eat unfamiliar fare. It's like wading into an enormous body of water; I'm not sure what's living in the deep end so I'm gonna shuffle my feet through the shallow end until I feel comfortable enough to swim. That's why my first few visits to the Blue Nile were strictly vegetarian. After all, I don't know what sort of meat is running around in the kitchen.
Fortunately they have outstanding vegetarian selections. I always get the #11 Vegetarian Combo. It includes 6 of the 10 vegetarian items and is big enough to share with at least one other person. This perfect platter is an arrangement of large dollops of Kik Alicha (spiced split peas), Gomen (chopped garlic collard greens), Atkilt Wot (mixed veggies with ginger & tumeric), Yesmissir Wot (red lentil stew),Shirro Wot (pea flowers & herbs)and finished with a fresh Blue Nile salad. Most of the items are warm and stewed so the salad is a refreshing addition to the platter.
Oh, did i mention you get to eat with your hands? Each platter comes with several servings of Injera(a spongy, crepe looking bread made of Teff flour). Used as a utensil, you simply rip off a piece of Injera, throw it on the bit of food you eventually want in your tummy and grab. Yes!
While this concept excites me today, the method was sort of odd when I was a mere 17 years old and my mom's friend's 20 year old son wanted to take me out on a date.
There was an Ethiopian restaurant in Tampa, were I grew up, and this is where he decided we'd go for dinner. I didn't want to go out with him to begin with, but my mother insisted that he was "a nice young man" and I should accept the invitation. So I did. He picked me up in his car and took me to dinner. As if I wasn't nervous enough, I had to figure out how to use this floppy bread to pick up veritable piles of soup!
Anyway, I got over it and we had fun. I kindly thanked him for an interesting evening and gladly went back to being single and using a fork. Now that I look back on it he was a pretty cool guy, but I was young and not really interested in dating yet. However one thing stuck with me; eating pizza and wings with my hands paled in comparison to this new hand to mouth practice and I was totally hooked on Ethiopian food.
After a few visits to Houston's Blue Nile, I finally went for a swim and tried a meat dish. Great stuff. The portions are large and the meat is super tender and flavorful; cooked with a harmonious blend of Ethiopian spices like garlic, hot pepper, and seasoned butter. Now if I go with a large enough group we'll get one Vegetarian combo and the #29, Yefisik Beyayinetu. This beef and poultry platter includes three of their best items.
I've been here about 4 or 5 times and I can honestly say that my experiences have been consistent. The food is great, the atmosphere is simple but subtly authentic, and the service (while very friendly) is not so great. You'll have to ask for pretty much everything from refills, to your check, to your change. Nonetheless, the food is exciting and unique.
P.S. If you want to get out of your routine every now and again, slip away to Blue Nile for some truly interesting dining. Make sure to get a glass of the honey wine too. This sweet beverage provides perfect balance to the rich fare.
Location: 9400 Richmond Avenue (713)782-6882