by Michael Berch
I admit that when I first heard the name African Restaurant, it sounded a bit prosaic, but in Lincoln the opening of a new restaurant is always exciting news. It had already gotten the nod in the Ground Zero section from the JournalStar’s Jeff Korbelik, so by the time Maggie and I made it up there last Wednesday we were both pretty chuffed. The JournalStar’s photo showed the proprietor, Muguleta (Roy) Ruei with a large plate showing off the restaurant’s specialties, and between Roy’s obvious enthusiasm, and the sight of that plate, I wanted to get right in there and say, “we’d like one of those, please!”
Maggie and I are both fans of east African cuisine, and in San Francisco tried to get to our favorite place — New Eritrea in the inner Sunset district — as often as possible. There’s just something about the mix of spices that date back to when that part of Africa was one of the crossroads of the world, with Indian, Arab, and Asian spice and fragrance traders stopping to leave their wares and pick up native African herbs and spices. The flat, spongy injera bread, made of teff (a cousin of millet) which has been allowed to ferment slightly, carbonating the dough and giving it a slightly tangy taste like sourdough, is one of my favorite breads.
We started with beef sambusas, which were huge, juicy, and stuffed with ground beef. They’re a three-cornered pastry akin to Indian samosas or Afghan sambosas, but these were the best I’ve ever had. For a main course, we asked for a combination of several of the meat dishes plus a vegetable — tibs (chunks of beef with jalapenos and seasoning), kay wat (a spicy beef curry with red sauce), and dulet (beef liver, heart, and stomach, chopped and stewed with vegetables, peppers and spices). Most of these can be prepared either spicy or mild, and we chose spicy, but only the kay wat really brought the heat. The plate also had lentils, and a mixture of potatoes, carrots, and string beans with coriander and cumin that tasted quite a lot like an Indian curry. All this on top of injera to soak up the juices, and more injera to eat it with, scooping it up with your fingers African-style.
It was really a feast. Needless to say, we didn’t finish it, and the leftovers were delicious as a late night snack the second night afterward, with beer.
If you’re reading this within eating distance of Lincoln, get on over to the African Restaurant and tell Roy that Maggie & Michael sent you!