26 February 2012

St. Paul: Fasika

510 N Snelling Ave
St Paul, MN  55104
(651) 646-4747

Wanna know something really cool?  My uncle owns this restaurant.  Yep.  That's right.  His name's Atnafu.  Tell him Alli sent you.

Fasika means feast.  Actually, it means Easter, but in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Lent is a serious commitment, so the Easter feast is all the better. We're talking about Amharic, the language of Ethiopia.  Oh, did I mention this place is Ethiopian?  Have you even ever tried Ethiopian?  What are you waiting for?  You'll love it.

Ethiopian food is fantastic.  It's spicy yet comforting, even though the spices are unfamiliar to the western palate.  I asked my dining companions - this time, Captain Adventure and BBQ (that's Matt and BFF Becca, cause naturally, the BFF morphed into BBQ) - to help me describe the stuff.  With the utmost articulation and poise, Matt offered, "The opposite of bad," and Becca followed up with, "Deeeeeeeelicious."  She specified that the word required 8 Es.  S'a lot of Es.

Like Indian food, you eat Ethiopian with the bread rather than dining utensils.  The spongy, crepe-like bread is called injera (in-JAR-eh), and it's pretty cool.  It has a bit of a sourdough taste.  Vegan!  Bread usually is, unless you go to Super Target and look in the bread aisle at all the weird packaged bread with preservatives and junk and check every single label until you're blue in the face and finally find the one brand that doesn't have diary, only to find that it has eggs and you're like, "FML!" and then everyone looks at you before scattering.


Here's what we always order.  It's the Vege-Sampler.  $14.50, and it feeds two people very well.  As you can see, it's enormous.  Do you see all the vegan things?!  It has like eighty of them!  Since there were three of us, we required further sustenance, so we also ordered a big dish of our favorite part: Misir Key Wot.  $9.  So worth it.

Those, my friends, are lentils.  Lentils that are SO spicy and wonderful they have turned red.  Really, it's the Berbere sauce.  They're the spiciest vegan thing Fasika has, and I find it's great with a mango juice chaser.  After every fiery bite.

That cute little salad on the right is worth your time.  It's very simple, but that's why it's so yummy.  Salt and pepper are used particularly well on it.  See the injera under the two dishes?  Lovely.  The servers keep you well-supplied with the stuff throughout your meal.  Speaking of the servers, we came in at 4:30 on a Saturday, and our food came out five minutes after we ordered!  That was pretty fantastic.

Let's take a closer look at the sampler.  The red lentils in the middle are a reappearance of Misir Key Wot, and the lettuce on the left is the same salad as before.  Everything is resting on top of a delectable layer of injera.

We'll start at the salad and go counter-clockwise.  The yellow-orange is cabbage, called Atkilt.  It's good and less spicy than some of the other items.  Next is a yummy curry laced with red spices, followed by the green beans - Fosolia.  I love them.  They have a rich, full-bodied taste.  Next is Shiro Wot, which is spiced chickpea flour cooked in that good ol' Berbere sauce.  It's kind of like super-spicy falafel.  Another fave.  There's a lentil salad above that with a whitish color - it's good, and has a strong horse-radishy taste.  Next are the greens: Gomen.  Spicy, comforting, delicious.  It's got a hint of sourness in a lemony kind of way.  The pretty yellow-orange lentils at the top are creamy and tangy. And finally, the brown lentils have a lovely curried flavor with a savory aftertaste.  Mm!

One of the best parts of the meal is when you've grabbed all the curry off the injera, because the injera will have soaked a lot of the flavor up.  As BBQ said, it's deeeeeeeelicious!

If it floats your boat, you could follow up with baklava, which is dairy-free but still has honey.  I've been known to indulge in the past.  This time, I didn't need anything sweet.  Becca and Matt are sweet enough.  AW!

Actually, I had a Chocolove bar.  Almonds and sea salt in 55% dark.  I may or may not have snuck it into a movie.  Sh.

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