Eating Week #3: Fasika

Fasika Ethiopian Restaurant

The restaurant review this time is the Ethiopian restaurant Fasika, located at 510 Snelling Avenue, just north of University Ave in Saint Paul.  Catherine and I first started eating Ethiopian dishes while at school in Boston, and we were delighted to find a good Ethiopian restaurant in the Twin Cities.

Fasika is a small corner restaurant, in a simple mom-and-pop style, with seating for about 15 groups.  It’s always been moderately busy whenever we’ve dined, but the wait has never been long.  The service is relaxed and friendly, and I’ve never felt rushed.

If you’ve never sampled Ethiopian cuisine before, you’re missing a treat.  The majority of the dishes are thick stews, which get served on a large flat bread (injera) that resembles a cross between a pancake and a tortilla.  Injera’s a bit on the sour side, vaguely reminiscent of sourdough bread, but spongy and slightly springy.  Ethiopian dishes are usually eaten without utensils – you rip off a piece of injera, use it to scoop up some of the stew and pop it into your mouth.  One of the menu items is a seven-dish sampler, which may be a good place to start if you’re unfamiliar with this type of cuisine.

We ordered three dishes to be shared between the four of us (no kids along on this outing).  One was my all-time favorite – Kik Alicha Wot, which is a split-pea stew, spiced with curry and moderately hot.  The Asa Kitfo, a new dish for us, is made with catfish cooked in spiced butter.  It was also on the moderately spicy side (perhaps a bit hotter than the Kik Alicha).  The third dish was the Lamb Key Wot, which is made with Berbere sauce, a very spicy reddish sauce that, while having a lot of flavor, definitely builds up a strong heat.  A couple of the dishes were accompanied by small side salads, which helped to offset the heat and spiciness of the meat dishes.  If you are comfortable with hotter Indian and Thai cooking, you should enjoy the spiciness and heat of most Ethiopian dishes.  Mike and I sampled the Hakim Stout beer, which went well with the meal.

Unfortunately, we were all too hungry to take pictures until about 2/3rds of the way through the meal.  By that time we’d polished off the catfish, and were almost done with the Kik Alicha and lamb dishes.

Fasika has my full recommendation – it is one of my favorite ethnic restaurants, and it is unfortunate that I don’t eat there as often as I’d like.  I expect that I’ll visit more frequently when the University Avenue light rail is working – it’ll be a straight run from work to the restaurant, making it perfect for a lunchtime visit.

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