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5910 E. Colfax Ave. Denver, Colorado, 80220 Tel: 303-321-4117
5910 E. Colfax Ave.
Denver, Colorado, 80220
There’s nothing terribly strange about Ethiopian food, especially if you’re Ethiopian. What’s strange is that more people don’t eat it. Give rookies a crash course in the cuisine at Red Sea (5910 E. Colfax Ave., 303-321-4117).
Prepare for an annoying debate when suggesting an Ethiopian meal to an unadventurous eater. “Wait—you eat with your hands?” he’ll say, scrunching his nose in disgust. “Yes,” you’ll say. “Just like, you know, hot dogs or hamburgers.”
“Wait,” he’ll say again, looking for another way out. “We eat with our hands and have to share the same food?”
“Yes,” will be your rejoinder. “Just like pizza. Now shut the fuck up and get in the car because this doro wot craving is murderous.”
Now comes the fun part, which is watching the uncomfortable reluctance on Unadventurous Eater’s face as you pull up at Red Sea. Just like most of East Colfax, the restaurant’s surroundings are moderately to severely dilapidated. Red Sea’s sign is rudimentary and hand-painted, and the high-set windows don’t reveal much about the interior. Drag your wary friend through the red door—grab both wrists if necessary.
Inside, Red Sea is quite tidy and airy. Audio-visual equipment might be sitting around waiting for a party, but the floors and tables are clean. Liquor bottles gleam from behind the bar at one end of the room. The decor is sparse—just some pictures and posters here and there—but we’re here to eat, not ponder an art exhibit. Right?
Red Sea’s menu will be familiar to experienced Ethiopian eaters: Tibs, various wots, kitfo, and more are all present. The beef tibs comes in dry or juicy varieties, a nice touch. The juicy version is super-juicy, all the better for picking up yummy scraps after the meat’s gone.
Vegetarians are in a safe space. The vegetarian combo meal comes with three styles of lentil, plus dollops of cabbage, spinach, and potato dishes. The server will even ask if it’s okay to serve the meat and veggie dishes on the same platter.
Snag a piece of injera, Ethiopia’s soft flatbread, and start scooping. At first bite, the blend of spices tastes slightly similar to Indian food. Red Sea isn’t afraid of going wild with the Berbere spice, either—earthy, vibrant, and hot as hell. They’ll even give you a little sampler of spice augmentations with the meal, including a container of peppery mitmita seasoning and one of scorching mustard.
After the flurry of scarfing, you’ll probably notice that Unadventurous Eater is eagerly picking at the sauce-soaked bits of injera that form the meal’s “plate.” He’s discovered that this food isn’t scary in the least—actually, it’s almost familiar in its basic elements of meat, potatoes, sauce, and bread. Pat him lovingly and encourage him to spread the word to others of his kind: Ethiopian food is magical.
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© 2013 Ethiopian Review