Sheba Ethiopian has the same stark aesthetic shared by almost all Ethiopian restaurants in this city. Uninspiring décor seems to be par for the course. Thankfully the robust flavours and warmth of the service make up for the lack of ambience at Sheba Ethiopian.
My friend and I each order a Sheba Veggie Platter ($12.95 per order) which is served on a large silver platter for sharing. It's covered with a base or plate of injera - the traditional Ethiopian sourdough flat bread - and comes with more injera on the side, used to wrap or roll up the salad and stews, traditionally using just your right hand. The injera plate soaks up any sauce and becomes a second course of flavourful juice soaked bread.
The Sheba Veggie Platter includes a scoop of various stews similar to curry, including Miser Wot or red lentil stew, Kik Wot and Kik Alicha two variations of yellow split pea stew, Gomen Wot or collard greens, and Tikel Gomen, a mild and sweet chopped cabbage and carrot dish.
The lunch specials are the real deal here available, as indicated on the menu, from 12:00 noon to 3:30 pm. The same Sheba Veggie Platter goes for $7.99, a more appropriate price for the offering, presented as a single lunch plate, pictured above. The spice level is mild compared to other Ethiopian restaurants I've been to. A side of hot sauce takes care of that and comes either as a berbere sauce or just the ground spice for dipping.
The Sheba Meat Platter ($13.95 regular; $8.99 lunch special) is a combination of Awaze Tibs, pan-fried beef cubes with tomato and spices and Kitfo, minced seasoned beef also referred to as Ethiopian steak tartar, as it's traditionally eaten raw. Our serving of Kitfo comes more cooked than requested but as it sits on the plate, the flavours meld together so the last bite is better than the first. The platter also has a serving of dry cottage cheese that's a great addition to the meat dishes.
Gored Gored ($12.95), off the regular menu consists of beef cubes mixed in Kebbe, Ethiopian clarified butter and Awaze, red pepper paste. The menu recommendation says its best served raw. Having an unusual moment of timidity, I order the beef rare. The sauce is fantastic, deep and rich in flavour. The rare beef is mostly tender with the exception of a slightly sinewy centre in the odd piece. I spend the rest of the meal wondering if that would have been eliminated by ordering it raw, as recommended.
A classic Ethiopian dish, the Doro Wot ($12.95) is chicken stew, usually a leg, served with a hard-boiled egg. Our dish came with two legs, though both were scrawny and not worth the price tag.
End off with the coffee ceremony, ordered at the start of the meal as it takes time to prepare. As part of the ceremony, the coffee beans are brought to the table roasting with the scent wafted towards each guest, as is customary. Then a pile of smoking, fragrant frankincense arrives perched on a small incense holder. Accompanied by a snack of popcorn, the coffee is worth the wait, thick and strong. But don't get greedy and attempt to drink the silt on the bottom.
Sheba Ethiopian is a good example of the Ethiopian fare on offer in this city but consider choosing the lunch hour specials for a well-priced sampling when atmosphere is not a must.
Note: When asked about the hours of service there was an inconsistent response from the staff with one server stating 11am to 11pm and another indicating 11:30am to 10:30 pm which I have shown below. The hours for the lunch specials are also inconsistent. A sign out front reads 11:30am to 3:30pm and the printed menu indicates 12noon to 3:30pm while one of the servers states 11:30am to 3pm. Stay well within the range for the safe bet.
Hours: 11:30 am to 10:30 pm daily