Words and Photos by Michael Pasco
If you are on the way to The Siegel Center or to Barnes and Nobles, Nile Ethiopian Restaurant is one of the very first restaurants you will see.
On the inside, the first thing that catches your eye is the kitchen, and the bar very close to it. If you were a regular or were eating alone, I could definitely see this adding a more intimate environment, especially with the chef.
However, because I went into the restaurant with more people, we were introduced to the other side of the restaurant; it was a very warmly colored environment, accented by very earthy paintings. While it was a very nice set up, I could tell that they had to take away some of their Ethiopian authenticity so that they could appeal to more customers.
In spite of that, the waitress was still quite cheerful, and she and the chef were quite interested in how we felt about the food. The chef kept checking up on us to make sure that we were enjoying ourselves. I would say that the great service made up for the longer wait we had to endure.
The table was ready with napkins, menus, and glasses of water. I decided against questioning the lack of drink choices, and went straight to looking at the menu. The first thing I noticed was just how pricy everything was. If it wasn’t an appetizer, than it was probably over $14.
The menu was organized by what type of meat you would like, but did have its own vegetarian section. Since I was already at an “exotic” restaurant, I decided to order something new, and got a Nile Doro Dulet, which is chopped chicken breast seasoned with garlic, onions, jalapenos, and mitmita – a spicy season frequently used in Ethiopian food. What made this order interesting though, was that it had the words spicy in parentheses in the menu, as though it were a warning.
Rather than give you utensils, very order is served with something called injera, which is a sort of teff flour tortilla. Our meals on an injera that was spread out over a square plate; they looked a bit like dipping sauces, and you were supposed to rip pieces of the injera (extra provided) to grab whatever you wanted.
As soon as we got our orders, I realized why we were given the water and not asked for soda. All of the food is extremely spicy, almost to the point where you cannot even really taste your food. You can feel the textures, but all you really taste is “spicy.” I honestly didn’t even realize I was eating chicken, and I was handling the spicy food better than my friends were. There was a type of salsa there that was a bit milder, and I ended up eating some of that just to distract from the spiciness from the rest of my dish.
The water became something of a necessity. I was used to eating spicy foods, but my friends had to constantly ask for refills in order to survive the meal. It was actually getting a bit too ridiculous, to the point where I wanted to make out with a fire hydrant. The good thing about spicy food is that it does fill you up though, so they didn’t have to tough through it for very long. We ended up taking the food back in boxes, which the chef kindly handled for us himself.
Final Verdict: Overall, I’d say if you don’t like spicy food, then don’t go to Nile.
Located at 309 N. Laurel St., Nile is open Tuesday through Sunday from noon to 3p.m. and 5:30 to 11p.m. For information, check out NileRichmond.com