Ethiopian Restaurant Review: Blue Nile of Boston

Ethiopian Dish (Photo: Melissa Ostrow)

Boston, USA -Either this is the best Ethiopian food in Boston, or the whole scene has advanced greatly since the last time I got to review in this genre. The immediate change for me in this 10-table storefront is real teff injera. If readers are new to this cuisine, injera are the sourdough pancakes that serve as an all-purpose utensil in Ethiopian food. You tear off a little piece of pancake with your right hand, and pick up some food and thus eat with your hand, neatly. Or it would be neatly, if you grew up with it. For me, it requires a bigger piece and multiple tries, and the injera under the food soaks up the sauce and gets really good, so I’m not going to leave any of that on the plate, and so soon enough, with the wheat- or barley-based injera hitherto available in Boston’s Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurants . . . it feels like I have swallowed a lead basketball.

Teff is the tiniest grain to be used as a staple food, with grains about the size of granulated sugar, and rich in fiber and minerals. It lends a certain flavor and darker color to injera, but the really great thing about teff injera is that it isn’t as starchy, so when a non-Ethiopian eats Ethiopian food inefficiently, requiring more injera per bite, the teff injera doesn’t expand in one’s stomach like a lead basketball.

Another major improvement is the sauces. The first wave of Ethiopian restaurants had only one sauce: berbere, a kind of secret-recipe season-all that combines the intensity of curry powder, chili powder, Cajun seasoning, and enriched uranium. (No, I’m joking about the Cajun seasoning.) Blue Nile, however, has several different sauces, a good variety of vegetarian options — Ethiopian Coptic Christians have many, many partial fast days — and a certain freshness to the flavors that I had been missing. More