Brew News

Empress Taytu

Lisa Sanchez
Have you ever gone somewhere and it felt like you were transported to another time? I'm not talking about played-four-Nirvana-songs-in-a-row type of flashback (:cough:), but literally in an unrecognizable era. That's how I felt when I visited Cleveland-based Ethiopian restaurant, Empress Taytu.
There were huts constructed inside the building, which provided your own private shelter when you settled for dinner. The chairs were squat stools pulling your knees close to your chest. There are common tables as well, but I like to be adventurous upon entering a foreign land. The waitresses all wore traditional Ethiopian dresses, or yordis, and there was a video on loop featuring Ethiopian dancers and music videos.
The place had an awesome atmosphere and definitely set the stage for dining on some authentic cuisine. For starters, we ordered sambusa, which are crispy, flaky triangular pockets filled with beef and lentils, cottage cheese, and collared greens. The sambusa was delicious, the vegetarian sambusa was such a great vegetarian snack it made me feel like they were tricking me into eating a vegetable. The collared greens, however, we were not able to finish. They tasted gamy and just downright unappealing. Ethiopian cottage cheese is a trip; it has more of a hummus consistency and has exactly zero flavors. It's like if you ordered a snow cone and only got ice.
For the entrees, I ordered yebeg off of the "Special Tibs Dinners" section of the menu. Yebeg consisted of lamb, onions, and rosemary and arrived while still cooking in a charcoal pot. Derek, being slightly more experimental, got the gored-gored, which comes from the aptly titled "If You Dare" section of Empress Taytu's menu. The gored-gored is a raw beef dish (which Derek elected to have lightly cooked), which is essentially just a bowl of solid meat with a few peppers. If you dare!
My yebeh was delicious and admirably seasoned, but while eating I had to wonder if it was worth $26.00. I may have been a little blurry from hunger when I ordered it. The price did not match the quality of the food. Plus, I became full almost immediately because our utensils for the meal were generous portions of a sticky, stretchy dough Derek dubbed "sponge bread".           
On top of all of the bread, Derek managed to finish his bowl of slightly cooked gored-gored. I think he did it out of pure perseverance and pride for never leaving a meal unfinished, but it was not a pleasant experience. It was nice to sample the food, but the dishes are not good enough to warrant an entire (expensive) meal.   
Overall, Empress Taytu was more like an exotic field trip than anything else. It was fun. I got to see some different things and experience a diverse culture. But, just because you visit Disney doesn't mean you have to buy a personalized hat. While Empress Taytu is an interesting cultural environment, the food was sub-par and overpriced. I do recommend visiting the huts, though.
Empress Taytu
6125 St. Clair Ave, Cleveland, Ohio 44103
Tuesday-Saturday 5:00 pm -10:00 pm