When thinking of the Ethiopian restaurant Abyssinia, the first word that comes to mind is “authentic.” A first-time visitor to this downtown restaurant does not just go for the food, but for the cultural experience of eating like the Ethiopians do.

When entering the establishment, one can’t help but notice all the dark statues and other decorations, along with the large number of Ethiopian travel advertisements, with their all too ineffective “13 Months of Sunshine” slogan.

After you finish wondering who on earth thought this line would get people to come to Ethiopia, you open your menu to notice an abundance of unrecognizable terms ? much like a Chinese menu without the handy descriptions.

Due to your inability to understand the menu, chances are you’ll go back to the slogan and think to yourself, “next time I need a vacation, forget Hawaii or the Bahamas, I’m going to Ethiopia!”

Hopefully by this point, the waiter will have come over and explained all the different terms and options you have, and finally you can stop picking on the slogan.

My date and I decided on the Dinner Special Combo for Two. This consists of two pea dishes, chicken, lamb, collard greens, beef and beans. Each of these items is approximately two to three tablespoons in size, except for the chicken. That was one drumstick and some stock.

This may all sound like fun and games up to this point, but here’s where the authenticity comes up.

All of the items are served on one circular tray, about two feet in diameter, which is covered by Ethiopian bread ? the foamiest, craziest dough formation I have ever witnessed.

Along with this tray of yummy food, we were handed a basket with approximately seven pieces of this bread, rolled up, and are told to pick up some of whatever item we choose, place it in a piece of this bread, and put it in our mouth. No utensils ? just this tray of food, some bread, and our fingers.

Because this is all so overwhelming, I go back to the slogan, wondering why the Beach Boys never wrote about the surfs of Ethiopia. After my managing editor girlfriend scolds me into shaping up, I decide to delve into this semi-crazy Ethiopian game.

To make a long story short, the food is great, especially if you love sauces, like me. Like a Thai restaurant, the sauces are extraordinary, but unlike Thai food, you get to experience three to four different ones.

The experience can open up the mind of even a tightwad like me. And if you don’t like the food, at least you get a taste of another culture. But don’t worry, you’ll like the food.

Pal can be reached at spal@campustimes.org.

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