A Tasting of Eritrea

I think the main driving force in my life outside of technology and its affiliated gadgetry is food and wine. Being currently based in California with regular trips to North Eastern Spain, the wine angle is pretty much taken care of in any number of ways. For food though, I’m always on the lookout for new places to try (although again, California and Spain don’t let me down.)
Someday, somehow, I’m going to put aside the time to get over to Taste of Africa in Berkeley. People all around say that while the service is pretty hit and miss, the West African dishes they serve are nothing short of perfection. Of course these reviews are on Yelp for the most part, which should always be taken with a drop of chili oil.
In San Francisco though, there are a decent number of options, especially in the Ethiopian department. It’s rare that you actually find one that specifically calls itself Eritrean. For those unfamiliar, Eritrea is a small country along the Red Sea, which was part of Ethiopia at various points in history until that was all settled by the quite nasty Eritrean-Ethiopian War. Because of this intertwined history, obviously the food is going to be similar in these two countries. For example, the staple of any good Eritrean or Ethiopian meal is the injera bread which you use to scoop up all of the food, sans utensils.
I encountered all of this at Assab Eritrean, a small restaurant perched out on Geary Blvd, in the Richmond District of San Francisco. The decor of the place is basic overall with touches of African objects here and there to give it more of a flair. The good is, after all what one is there for and they have a great, extensive menu of meat and vegetarian dishes to choose from. Surprisingly, there isn’t a lot of seafood, given that Eritrea has quite a good deal of coast, I was under the impression that was one of the main distinctions from Ethiopian dishes, but apparently not at Assab.
The staff are nice, but the wait can take a bit for the food, which didn’t bother me all that much as they’re a pretty small operation and I’ll take that any day over something more akin to MacEritrea Bell. When it comes to the food itself it is quite, quite good. Flavors of any and all dishes, whether simple lentils or beef, are deep and varied. They don’t just crank up the heat and leave out the flavors. No, things are fresh, good and enjoyable. While it would seem elementary, the injera was perfect and worked to complement the food exactly how it should. Probably my only warning would be that if you’re not a fan of spicy foods to order carefully as some dishes can pack quite a punch. Otherwise a good stop in San Francisco when one is craving East African vittles.
A Tasting of Eritrea