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TLO Restaurant Review: Queen of Sheba

9:29 AM EDT on October 24, 2017

It is completely apropos that the city’s premier Ethiopian joint is named after legendary African royalty, because dining at Queen of Sheba will definitely leave anyone feeling like a beloved king. Or queen.

Located at 2308 N. MacArthur Blvd., in the same beaten shopping center as OK Corral, Queen of Sheba is one of the metro's rare Ethiopian eateries. Once walking through its cedar lattice gateway and heavy glass door, as the regional music plays overhead and numerous spices fill the air, it truly feels as though you’re transported to a restaurant in another part of the world, as if on vacation.

Actually, that’s kind of how the whole experience felt: like an unexpected vacation. I have no idea how long it’s been since an eatery made me feel that way, where I sat long after eating, just laughing and talking, no clock to watch and no phone to check. The darkened windows seemingly shut out the world and, as the waiter brings warm towels to clean your hands, a real sense of time-stopping relaxation set in. I almost half-expected someone to come up and start rubbing my shoulders and you know, if they did, I wouldn’t have stopped them.

Even though I am mostly unfamiliar with Ethiopian food and their style of cooking, Queen of Sheba’s menu is beautifully clear and concise and isn’t shy about letting you know what you’re in for. That being said, I willfully started off with an appetizer order of Vegetarian Sambusa ($4.50).

Reminding me very much of an empanada, of sorts, this absolutely commanding treat features lentils, green chiles, onions and herbs placed in a doughy shell and deep fried to golden resplendence. Ten minutes into the meal and, already, I feel like I could just order another round or two of these little darlings and call it a night.

But, aristocratically, this meal was just beginning.

Craving a little protein, it was recommended that I dine on an order of Kitfo ($14.99), which, according to the menu, is “freshly minced, very lean ground beef mixed with mitmita and butter.” A specialty of the Gurage people of Central Ethiopia, the meat is often served raw. Well, it’s like I always say: when in Central Ethiopia…

With its intrinsic, heretofore unheralded scent, taste, and texture, my tongue felt as though it was reawakening from some sort of forced slumber, working overtime as the moderately cool beef, with its fleshy, aromatic texture mingled with the strangely tasteless cheese and additional greenery, either by the wanton spoonful or wrapped in the Queen of Sheba’s special bread, injera, a spongy, crepe-like flatbread that is used in place of silverware; it is, for the most part, ultimately addictive, causing the mind to wander and wonder where else this miracle bread could be used for in daily life.

You're thinking burritos too, right?

As delightfully delectable as that entrée was, the true crowning achievement of this evening’s dining was the specifically advised Vegetarian Combination platter ($12.99 per person) that truly offers a majestic sampling of all the tempestuous meatless specialties the Queen offers, including split-pea heavy offerings like Kik Aitcha and Shurro Watt, as well as the spiced lentils of the Yemsir Watt, the greens of the Gomen Watt and so on.

An absolute abundance of riches, Queen of Sheba’s chef has made sure every bite is an intoxicatingly stately enterprise, with so many different flavors, textures and sensations coming together at one time that, before you know it, you can barely move but you’re using the last piece of injera to thoroughly clean the platter, regally sopping up whatever remnants are left, wasting nothing that this kingdom of culinary righteousness has to offer. ¡Cómpralo ya!


 Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler.

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