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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Portland
Food
Feel
Price
8.7
6.5
$35
Ethiopian
Casual restaurant

Hours
Sun–Wed 5:00pm–10:00pm
Thu–Sat 11:00am–3:00pm
Thu–Sat 5:00pm–10:00pm

Features Veg-friendly
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards None
Reservations Accepted

www.queenofsheba.biz

Northeast Portland
2413 NE MLK Blvd.
Portland, OR
(503) 287-6302
Queen of Sheba
Food from the birthplace of humanity served in a slightly dingy, totally sincere place

Queen of Sheba is our favorite Ethiopian restaurant in Portland. Spice-filled air emanates from this hole in the wall operating out of an old converted store in a musty building. The dining rooms are strange and shabby, lit by mostly burned-out fluorescent bulbs. A few flags and painted figures on the walls attempt to brighten things up. A list of interesting cocktails is available from the quiet full bar in back: a “Greenfire Kiss,” for instance, mixes brandy or tequila with serrano peppers, ginger, olive juice, and a dash of vermouth. It’s unusual, and a good entry to a transportive meal.

Just about everything that is not fresh is imported from Ethiopia. The owner apparently makes yearly trips there, returning with grains, spices, and other necessary ingredients.

The injera (spongy sourdough bread) here is nice, slightly citrusy-sour, and its brightness complements the deep, spicy flavors of the food it picks up and takes to your plate in lieu of cutlery. Try a vegetarian sampler (be prepared to share—there’s a lot of everything) that includes: split-pea stew with warm spices; lentil and okra stew; chickpea paste; Oregon mushroom stew; mustard greens steamed and seasoned with flax seeds; and so on.

Beef, lamb, and chicken come either as alicha—in a complex sauce of ginger, garlic, onion, fenugreek, cumin, basil, cardamom, oregano, and turmeric—or as berbere, a piquant combination of wine, cumin, clove, cardamom, turmeric, allspice, fenugreek, ginger, chili, and garlic. Neither sauce is mouth-scaldingly hot, which isn’t the goal of this cuisine. Alicha is more aromatic and vivacious; berbere is slightly silkier and rich. Always dependable is doro wat, the national dish of Ethiopia—a lemon-washed chicken leg simmered in berbere and topped with a hard-boiled egg. Some meats can be a little overcooked, but never distractingly so.

Where Portland’s (few) other Ethiopian restaurants tend to be more shy on flavor and quality ingredients, the dishes here achieve an excellent balance, never masking the subtleties of the flavors. The prices are hard to beat, and the whole experience is sensuous and fun.

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