October 21, 2007


We went to Asmara last night. Not the Eritrean city, but the namesake restaurant on Mass Ave. in Cambridge.

So how does Ethiopian slash Eritrean food compare in a plethora of other ethnic choices?

Pretty, pretty good.

They are next door to Picante's which is my favorite in and out Mexican place. And every time I go in Picante's I always notice the big upturned sombrero tables in Asmara.

We walked in and were immediately moved to our table. It was a little close to the door, so we kept our coats on, plus the AC was blowing up a storm. Towards the end of the evening our waitress apologized for the cold, she explained that the kitchen was red hot, so they keep the air-con on full tilt.

Anne and I agreed on the Sega Bebayneto, a sampler dish of chicken, beef, lamb and vegetables.

We also asked for Asmara beer. Two bottles came and as Anne poured, I did the same. Mine didn't come out. It was frozen. Still a replacement came and all was good.

Within 10 minutes we were each given a hand wipe, and this was a sign that our food was imminent. You eat with your hands in this place.

Sure enough, a huge platter of food followed, along with injera, an Ethiopian bread that looked like chamois leather but tasted delicious.

The food was great. That's all I have to say. You grab some bread, and pick up the food, like a self-serve stew.

Who else was dining? A classic Cambridge intellectual - complete with the 4 essentials, a bow-tie, tweed jacket, high waisted pants and a dowdy unimpressed wife. His table was rounded off with 2 younger women who did not seem happy.

Mostly, the place was full of people who seemed to enjoy the food and/or the concept.

One unrelated bizarre incident. At the exact moment a couple entered the restauarant, the Red Sox had scored and the people in the bar across the road let out a huge cheer. To those of us inside the restaurant it sounded like Mass Ave had a "Canned Cheer" track running, activated by the door of the restaurant. I guess you had to be there ...

So it all seemed very authentic, except for the huge espresso machine. I know Ethiopia is a large coffee supplier, but somehow I cannot imagine an industrial sized "La Spaziale" in Addis Ababa. Then again what the hell do I know?

We'll go back.

October 20, 2007

Dolphin Seafood Restaurant

Favoring something a little healthy the other night, we walked over to the Dolphin Seafood Restaurant.

To me it feels like the opposite of the Naked Fish.

Naked Fish - pretentious restaurant in the dull sad suburbs.

Dolphin Seafood Restaurant - unassuming hole in the wall style place in the heart of a nice city neighborhood.

We were by far the youngest people in there.

Simple menu. A bunch of fish choices. 3 starches to choose from, and a veg/salad/slaw option to make.

Anne asked what the vegetable of the day was. It was carrots. So she ordered a salad. Anne is the master (mistress?) of not choosing whatever specials she asks about.

I had Tilapia for the first time in an age. A few years back, I was involved in a photo shoot for a client who sells frozen Tilapia in a box. Because that's how glamorous my job is. Since then I have developed an almost psychopathic aversion to that damn fish.

I also had a baked potato and the aforementioned carrots (they help you see in the dark - and who wouldn't want that special power?)

Anne had bread-crumb encrusted haddock, with rice and the salad.

Our waiter looked like a down-on-his-luck Billy Corgan, but I'm nit-picking if I said it spoiled our evening. To be clear the Smashing Pumpkins were not a good band. If you disagree that's because you're wrong.

The Red Sox vs Tribe game was on in the background but nobody seemed to care that much.

All in all simple food in a simple setting.

And that's why we'll be going back.

October 9, 2007

Betty's Wok and Noodle

Oh Dear. I so wanted to like this place.

We needed food before the three hour marathon of watching Henry Rollins 'speak his words' at Berklee on Sunday night.

The theme is all screwed up.

Photos of Betty adorn the place and she looks like a your archetypal 50's housewife, complimented with period (although actually replica) typography. It's a great schtick.

So it's a bummer that the decor is slightly retro but not enough to do the theme justice, and certainly not ground-breaking enough for me to 'get over myself'.

Food. Latin-Asian fusion. Two words. Fuck that.

Juan-Ton is undeniably funny, but it does not make it edible.

Listen up people, stop using fusion as an excuse to put incompatible shit together. Unless you are performing spinal surgery, or are a nuclear particles dude you have no reason to use the word.

And as bad as fusion is for food, it's even worse for drinks.

I had a Sak-it-to-me Punch. Why? Obviously because it's funny. The menu promised sake and fresh citrus fruits. It tasted like ass. Pineapple is not a citrus fruit. (I looked it up in Wikipedia - and that's never wrong is it?).

Anne had something that tasted like fizzy curry. Tamarind and chunks of ginger. Is someone taking the piss?


Luckily it is by the Symphony Hall, so there's lots of kids (probably named Tarquin and Tamsin) in dinner jackets and bow-ties.

I digress.

For food we all had noodles, with veg and meat.

Mine was so, so (Chicken and Hoisin).

Anne's was short on noodles and taste. You do not mix mint and peanuts. Ever had a minty peanut butter chocolate bar? No, because it tastes terrible.

3rd diner was our friend Beck. She looks like Betty, loves the theme, and seems to be "Never Wrong™" so of course she's going to like the food. She had beef noodles in a Thai sauce. And she liked their lemonade.

That said, we had a fun time talking about tuxedoes, the restaurant mirrors and our server who looked like Frank the cap-wearing writer in 30 Rock. And the check was reasonable.

Combining two things I love; the food of Wagamama with the feel of a 50's diner could be much much better.

Note I didn't write mucho mucho - because the Latin thing needs to be dropped like the Selena Fan Club.