Asmara offers authentic Eritrea cuisine

by Emma Secker

Visit Asmara to partake in memorable, exotic food and tranquil ambiance for a more than reasonable price, Courtesy of Asmara
Visit Asmara to partake in memorable, exotic food and tranquil ambiance for a more than reasonable price, Courtesy of Asmara

For students looking to enjoy an authentic and traditional Ethiopian dining experience close to home, City Heights offers a restaurant with dining and décor that reflects the cultural charms of Asmara: the capital city of Eritrea, Africa and the namesake of this unique restaurant.

When first entering Asmara from an unremarkable street in City Heights, diners will likely feel the unassuming exterior is more than compensated for by the quaint and decorative ambiance of Asmara’s interior. One sweeping glance reveals cream-colored and burnt orange walls framed by windows with exquisite, Ethiopian drapery. Authentic paintings and other artwork festoon the walls and woodwork, and two large flat-screen televisions broadcast song and dance videos filmed along Eritrea’s countryside.

After being escorted to one of Asmara’s elegant tables, vegetarians and omnivores alike can peruse a menu with several delicious options. Ranging from $10 to $13, Asmara’s prices are inexpensive and worth every penny. Served atop a tasty, yeast-risen flatbread called inerja, spicy and flavorful meat and veggies are heaped to comprise a scrumptious meal that diners cannot wait to dig into, using their “natural forks.”

This clever term is how the family-owned restaurant describes its eating utensil policy — or lack thereof. For students who enjoy finger food, Asmara emulates the “hands on” method of eating one would use if dining traditionally in the East African city.

Students can accompany their delicious Eritrean meal with a tasty variety of beverages. A glass of the customer favorite, sweet honey wine, costs $5 a glass, and a steaming glass of herbal tea can be enjoyed for less than $2. Fresh coffee roasted on the spot in Asmara’s own kitchen is another beverage students might find to be a divine complement to their flavorful feasts. Finally, for those craving a cold, strong brew to chase down one of the spicier entrées, a fine variety of beer is offered for $4 a glass.

Manager and co-owner of Asmara, Samson, explained that the goal of the restaurant is to provide complete authenticity in food and atmosphere, so diners can experience the culture’s true, exquisite taste. Although Samson succeeds in brilliantly in accommodating the western tongue, they make it imperative that the experience remains completely authentic.

“We want customers to come in so we can learn from them and help the restaurant improve,” one of the owners said. Gesturing to a bar with tall, leather chairs full of friends and family, Samson introduced regulars who can’t get enough of Asmara’s relaxing atmosphere and delicious food.

For students who would like to witness for themselves the food and service that keeps customers coming back for more, Asmara is open Monday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Weekend evenings are the busiest at Asmara, but reservations are gladly taken in advance. Smashing reviews on Yelp award Asmara 4.5 stars, and one visit to this restaurant leaves diners with no questions as to why.