APRIL 10, 2015 BY GRANT SHINDO

Last year we discovered an Ethiopian restaurant that popped up inside a ramen shop on Kapahulu Avenue. One day it disappeared and no one knew where it went. Until now.

See those rolls on the edges of the plate? This is injera flatbread, which has a spongy texture and a bit of tang much like sourdough bread. No utensils here, use the injera to eat!

See those rolls on the edges of the plate? This is injera flatbread, which has a spongy texture and a bit of tang much like sourdough bread. No utensils here, use the injera to eat!

Tucked away on Smith Street in Chinatown, Ethiopian Love Restaurant opened its doors in time for last week’s First Friday crowd. Utilizing the bold flavors of onion, garlic, turmeric, ginger and traditional spice blends called berbere and kebe, a clarified butter, owners Abraham Samuel and his fiancee bring out extravagant family-style dishes that you eat with your hands.

The restaurant is located in Chinatown along Smith Street, across from Little Village Noodle House

The restaurant is located in Chinatown along Smith Street, across from Little Village Noodle House

Our party of nine sat outside in a beautiful courtyard that you can glimpse from the street. The menu is manageable with a few appetizers, six entrees and nine vegan options. We had one vegetarian in the group who was already a fan; he helped us navigate the menu.

If it’s nice out, take an outside seat. The space is beautiful and a nice breeze runs through.

If it’s nice out, take an outside seat. The space is beautiful and a nice breeze runs through.

We started with sambussas ($6.50 for two) for everyone. Much like samosas in Indian cooking, these golden fried pockets of dough are stuffed with earthy brown lentils, green onions and herbs and served with a spice-laden sauce.

We started with sambussas ($6.50 for two) for everyone. Much like samosas in Indian cooking, these golden fried pockets of dough are stuffed with earthy brown lentils, green onions and herbs and served with a spice-laden sauce.

We got two big plates with injera, wots (think stews) and tibs (think boldly flavored stir fried beef, lamb or chicken).

We got two big plates with injera, wots (think stews) and tibs (think boldly flavored stir fried beef, lamb or chicken).

 

Everything you order is family-style and served on a bed of injera. We broke off pieces and mopped up bites from communal plates:

• Ethiopian Love veggie sampler ($20 for six vegetarian dishes of the day)
• Spicy awaze tibs ($17), sauteed beef with caramelized onions, tomato, bell pepper and berbere
• Lamb tibs ($18), a bold dish of onions, garlic, ginger, rosemary and kebe. It reminded me of a savory pork sausage in flavor
• Doro tibs ($14), chicken sauteed with onions, garlic, tomatoes, spices and herbs
• Love Shiro ($18), a thick, flavorful stew of seasoned ground chickpeas, cubed beef, kebe, garlic and karya

The lamb tibs, Love Shiro and azifa (brown lentils seasoned with onions, jalapeno and fresh lemon juice) were the crowd pleasers.

The lamb tibs, Love Shiro and azifa (brown lentils seasoned with onions, jalapeno and fresh lemon juice) were the crowd pleasers.

The service is friendly and explains what each dish is on your communal plate

The service is friendly and explains what each dish is on your communal plate

Remember, injera is a very filling carb, so keep that in mind when you’re ordering. We all shared a veggie sampler and four entrees and it comfortably fed the group. Our total came out to $20 per person including tax and tip, making Ethiopian Love Restaurant an affordable dining option.

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