Restaurant Reviews

Red Sea

October 2016 | view this story as a .pdf

A Dash of Spice

restaurant-review-oct16Red Sea whisks authentic Ethiopian cuisine to hungry Forest City diners.

Red Sea splashes onto Washington Avenue as we enter to find bright yellow walls and taverna-style tables covered in white linen.

We begin with tapas-style starter plates, opting first for falafel ($5, below). Served steaming hot, the chickpea patties radiate intricately balanced spices, herbs, and a decent kick of garlic. Next up, sambusas ($5, above right). We devour tasty pastry triangles filled with seasoned ground beef (or chicken or lentils as desired), served with a zesty citrus hummus.

Entrées arrive family style, in true Ethiopian tradition. The sampler plate (meat $30, vegetarian, $26) serves 2-3 diners, or you can order separate entrées presented together, as we did.

After much deliberation, we choose a plate of yebeg alicha ($15), deeply flavorful cubes of tender lamb stewed with potatoes, carrots, peppers, curry, and alluring spices. The Eritrean-style spicy haddock stew ($13) delights with delicately textured chunks of fresh fish bathed in an exotic sauce.

Most satisfyingly, the entrées arrive heaped upon a huge platter of injera, a spongy sourdough bread made from “teff,” a gluten-free flour surrounded colorfully by red lentils, kale, and fresh green salad. Four extra rolls of the delicious injera bread garnish four corners of the plate. The traditional method invites you to eat without utensils, breaking off pieces of the flatbread to scoop up the food–the sensation is freeing.

Libations at Red Sea are limited, especially beer. You’ll find bottles of Heineken and Corona ($3.50), or Blue Moon ($4). A glass of Dark Horse Chardonnay ($5) also proves a worthwhile pairing to the fragrant dishes on offer. However, for a real treat, sample the traditional coffee ($3.75). Individually and freshly brewed, it’s a fitting accompaniment to the only dessert (and it is stunning)–sweet, flaky parcels of baklava.

Quick trip, memorable vacation. 

Red Sea, 30 Washington Avenue, Portland. Wed. to Sat., 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; Mon. & Tues., 12-9:30 p.m. 805-1488