I have always been open to trying cuisines from all over the globe. The different spices and specialty ingredients in unique combinations excite my palate. Recently, I had the pleasure of returning to Hawi Ethiopian Cuisine, located on Cayuga Street in the Commons. My first experience with the restaurant was during my sophomore year at Cornell, so I was looking forward to seeing if anything had changed or if the restaurant was still the place I enjoyed and looked forward to visiting.
A group of three friends and I had made reservations for 6 p.m. on a Saturday night. However, when we arrived, the restaurant was only half full, and I realized we could have just walked in. The restaurant is decorated in warm, golden tones with comfortable booths and tables. There was a mix of large groups and couples enjoying quiet date nights when we sat down. We explored the menu and decided to try a variety of things.
One thing that’s perfect about Ethiopian food is the variety and ability to share with those you are dining with. My friend, who was looking for a lighter meal, ordered two appetizers: the sambusa and the katenga. The sambusa came in an order of two rolls, deep fried similarly to an egg roll and filled with a spiced beef mixture. The rolls were crispy, but a little greasy and could have used more filling. The katenga came with five pieces of injera bread, which was rolled in berbere spice and butter to create crisp pinwheels. The two other of my friends and I ordered entrée dishes that came served on the injera bread, which is a spongy, soft flatbread made of teff grain and wheat that has a taste that reminds me of sourdough bread. Additional rolls of injera are brought on the side because the meals are meant to be eaten entirely using the bread and your hands, making utensils unnecessary.
All of the entrée choices consist of the protein of your preference and two vegetable side dishes. I decided on the yebeg alicha, a mild lamb stew with flavorings of ginger, garlic, and turmeric, which provided for a beautiful yellow color. The flavors combined beautifully, providing for a delicious sauce, and the hearty chunks of lamb were tender. For my vegetable sides, I chose the misir wat, which were red lentils with a red pepper sauce and gomen, the seasoned collard greens. Both vegetable dishes were tasty, but I loved the smoky, complex flavor of the the lentils. One of my friends chose the doro tibs, which consisted of boneless chicken cooked with onions, tomatoes, jalapeños and berbere spice, along with the yater kik alicha, split peas cooked in a mild sauce, and fasolia, the sautéed string beans and carrots. My friend who is vegetarian tried the veggie combo, which came with all seven vegetable dishes atop injera bread. This dish combination was full of colors and flavors.
Overall, our meals were flavorful, and we appreciated trying a less common cuisine than what we usually go for when dining out. The service at Hawi is relaxed, so expect a slower pace of the meal, but overall, it was a very filling and satisfying way to spend a Saturday evening with friends.