Wednesday, May 2, 2012

E is for: Ethiopian & Eskender {Radio Africa & Kitchen Review}

I first discovered Chef Eskender Aseged's wonderful Ethiopian cooking when he was operating a pop-up restaurant two nights a week at a cafe in the Mission. After seven years, he has finally opened his very own brick and mortar space, and he is still as friendly as ever. He makes a point to come out and chat with all of the tables, which makes you feel warm and welcome, like you are dining with family or friends, and that's exactly his goal at Radio Africa & Kitchen


I'll admit, the new location makes you a little nervous when you are driving there. It's pretty deep in the heart of Bayview, definitely not the type of area I would usually venture out to, especially at night. But you can tell the neighborhood is making some strides to spruce things up a bit. In fact, in doing a little research for this post, I learned that Radio Africa is one of a handful of city-supported restaurants aimed at drawing more of a foodie crowd into this forgotten corner of town. (Limon Rotisserie's newest location is another example, along with soon-to-open Brown Sugar Kitchen of Oakland. There's also now a Fresh and Easy grocery store, the first grocery store in the neighborhood).

As for the food, it was delicious and fresh. I actually purchased a Living Social coupon for a 5 course tasting menu for two. So instead of getting the full-sized portions from the regular menu, we got to have a little taste of everything, which was really fun. The menu changes every week, and until they get their beer & wine license, you can bring your own with no corkage fee!

For appetizers, we had: Shitake and crimini mushroom crostini with English Peas and Parmesan cheese (top left), arugula salad with beets and fennel (bottom left), Jerusalem artichoke and leek soup (middle), saffroned prawn cocktail with heirloom tomato harissa (top right), and yellowfin & tombo tuna kitfo with chives, creme fraiche and injera. Eskender does a really good job of blending African flavors with contemporary California cuisine. I really loved the yellowfin with the injera, which is sort of like a thin pancake. That was probably my favorite of the starters. I also really liked the crostini...so simple, but really great flavor at the same time.


For entrees, we got to sample: green lentils with goat cheese, mustard greens with flax seed raita and a wild rice with red cabbage salsa (left). We also had wild barramundi with haricots verts, preserved lemon and pistachio salsa (middle) and roasted leg of lamb with eggplant caviar, spinach and cous cous (top right). Surprisingly, the vegetarian dish was my favorite. I loved the lentils, and the fact there were so many different flavors and textures. The goat cheese gave it a nice tanginess that balanced out all of the rich flavors. Dessert was simple but satisfying. A chocolate "decadence" with honey poached pears, strawberries and whipped cream (bottom right).

During Eskender's visit to our table, he was beaming about having a full-sized kitchen to cook his meals as opposed to two hot plates in the back of a coffee shop. He also told us he plans to start a community garden across the street to help further build a sense of community and even grow some of the ingredients for his dishes. They are open from Tuesday-Saturday from 5:30-9:30 and have plans to serve lunch at some point too, where they will draw from the neighborhood to help staff the lunch crowd. The place was bustling on a Thursday night, so I was glad to see it doing so well and will be interested to see how it does long-term.

Until you have a chance to check out the restaurant, Chef Eskender was nice enough to share a few of his delicious recipes with my blog readers. I will be making one of them later this week, but in the meantime, check out this recipe for Mushroom Wot Crostini! (similar to the one pictured above)


Mushroom Wot Crostini with Mustard Greens, Berbere & Parmesan
[printable recipe]

1 pound shitake mushrooms, sliced
1 pound crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped shallots
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon berbere (see recipe below)
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1 bunch of mustard greens, chopped
Salt and pepper
Sliced baguette
Shredded Parmesan cheese


Saute shallots and garlic in olive oil on medium heat for 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook for about 15 minutes on medium low, stirring often. Add the mustard greens and cook for another five minutes. 

Take off of heat and let it rest for a few minutes. Drain some of the liquid out of the pan and add berbere, sherry vinegar, parsley and salt and pepper. Scoop a spoonful of mushroom wot on sliced bread and sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top of them. Bake crostini in a 350 degree for about 5-7 minutes or until lightly browned. Please enjoy!

Quick Berbere {Ethiopian spice mixture}

1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground garlic
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Toast all of the ingredients in a 300 degree oven for 5 minutes. Put them in grinder and pulse for a minute or so. Keep in airtight container.

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