Last night Megan and I planned to check out the newly revamped Cafe Gutenberg, only to discover a note on the door informing us that they are closed on Tuesdays. Quickly regrouping, we headed two doors down to Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant. Sheba is one of two Ethiopian restaurants here in Richmond, the other being Nile which I have been to several times.
After a slightly rough start with the waitress (I had to help her open the wine bottle) we got things started with a bottle of 2007 Finca Sophenia Reserve Malbec and an appetizer of Katenya. Katenya is injera bread that is lathered with berbere sauce (Ethiopian red pepper blend) and Sheba cheese and then rolled up and sautéed. It looks like an Ethiopian version of a quesadilla, and was really fabulous, I think it lasted about 3 minutes before we gobbled it up.
For our entrée we shared the vegetarian sampler which came with 5 different types of Ethiopian fare atop a large flat piece of injera served family style. The 5 dishes were Misir Wot (red lentils in red pepper sauce), Yekik Alicha (yellow split peas cooked with onions, garlic, and sliced green peppers), Fasolia (string beans and carrots in a mild caramelized onion sauce), Yeabesha Gomen (collard green steamed and delicately seasoned with garlic and chilies) and Tikel Gomen (cabbage, potato, and carrot simmered in mild sauce with garlic, ginger, onion, and green chills). All this was $12.95 and was plenty of food for two people. The only disappointment was they were apparently out of the Fasolia and served a little green salad instead.
The Malbec was a perfect pairing for the food and stood up to the rich flavors of the Ethiopian cuisine. Although the wine itself had a little too much oak on the nose, it wasn’t very present on the palate and was loaded with dark fruit flavors of cassis and plum and hints of brown spice that picked up similar notes in the food.
All in all a good experience and the food was excellent. We will definitely be heading back when we need to get our Ethiopian fix. Eating with your hands is so much fun!
Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant
9 N 17th Street
Richmond, VA 23219
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Sounds good. Must give Ethiopian food another try one of these days.
I love Ethiopian food, but have never done any wine pairings with it.
You’ve got me thinkin’ its time to get me drinkin’!
How am I supposed to take your wine recommendations seriously? Malbec with Ethiopian food? Malbec?
why not malbec?
While not my first choice for Ethiopian cuisine a New World red is fine. Plenty of soft, sweet fruit and while the 2007 Finca Sophenia Reserve Malbec has a lot of oak tannin, they are rounded out to death by micro-ox. That wine is another Michele Rolland project, has his handprint all over it. He consults several hundred wineries around the world and they all taste the same. Has grapes picked late so that have lost acidity therefore no structure. Puts everything in barrique, micro oxygenation to makes things soft as a pillow, makes a fat, silky cocktail wine for early drinking. Gets the high ratings from all of those wine publications.
You can’t blame American consumers the desire to drink New World Malbecs. We are not a wine consuming culture. We drink Coke with our Big Macs. Wine is separate from our food. Beer is to low brow to get loaded on, Manhattans are to high in alcohol. Wine is the perfect cocktail, kind of sophisticated, can’t be acidic because it is drunk by itself, can’t have tannins. Can’t be Merlot, can’t be a Cab, Pinot (noir) is not trendy anymore. Malbec is something relatively new (except in Cahor by 2000 years) and it is fun to say.
I would drink dry fruity pink wine from Provence or the Roussillon or Puglia or somewhere in the Mediterranean with my Ethiopian food.