By: Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
I would have loved to have seen a picture of our faces when the server at Gursha Ethiopian Restaurant presented our food. He brought it out in two bowls, poured it onto a large pizza-size dish with bread on it and walked away.
“Now what do we do?” Mike said.
We do what the Ethiopian do, grab some injera – an Ethiopian sourdough flatbread – and dig in…with our hands. Yep, that’s right, with Ethiopian cuisine, utensils are optional with most such restaurants not offering any unless asked.
Located in the area that seems like it should be Kentwood but is really Grand Rapids – in other words the Town and Country Shopping Center, 4301 Kalamazoo Ave. SE – Gursha Ethiopian Restaurant brings a unique dining experience and is housed in a mall that is full of interesting finds such as the Mediterranean Island, one of the best international grocery stores in the area.
We drove up, parked in front of the restaurant, which had a large blue-and-white sign, and walked in. While small, the entire place had a really cool feel reflecting the heritage and culture of Ethiopia. Our server quickly seated us and brought out two glasses and a pitcher of water on a silver serving trade.
After some explanation and a review of the menu, I selected a “tib” dish that featured beef chunks with sautéed onions and spices. The description reminded me of Mongolian Beef, which I like so I felt pretty confident this would be a winner. I was right, the dish was very favorable without being heavy on spice. I loved it and couldn’t get enough. The meal came with some side dishes which were not explained. One was a corn dish and the other was spinach, both being pretty good.
What surprised us both was how quickly we got filled up on our meal. I figured it was because using the bread as the utensil, it forced us to eat slow. Mike also felt it was because we had bread with each bite.
Prices were a little higher, it was $12.99 for my dish, but the chance to experience an entirely different way to enjoy food made it worth it.
By: Mike DeWitt
“Do we use our hands?”
As I stared at the plate of food prepared community style on a plate in front of Joanne and me. Utensils were nowhere to be found, but there was a basket of spongy bread on my left. I was perplexed and yet awfully intrigued.
When we pulled into Gursha Ethiopian Restaurant out of the Going Local hat, I had no idea what to expect. When it comes to food, I usually have a good idea of what will be placed in front of me. There’s usually a slight pocket of memory dug back in my brain that at least gives a slight hint of what I might be eating. Whether I saw it online, on TV or in person, an idea of food isn’t too far removed from my frontal lobe. However, Ethiopian stumped me. I’ve never eaten it nor have I seen it.
Going Local was about to be a true blind date, maybe I should’ve paid more attention to Joanne’s foretelling throwaway comment, “hope you enjoy eating with you hands!”
Gursha, located on Kalamazoo just north of 44th Street, is authentic Ethiopian. The Ethiopian colors of red, yellow and green invite you in and cover the chairs. There is seating available at a mesob – a hand-woven Ethiopian dining table – for those interested in a more authentic experience.
The menu is full with vegetarian, fish, lamb, chicken, and beef options. I’ll be honest, I had no idea what any of it truly meant. I ended up choosing a beef option called Sega Wat that was a beef stew in a spicy, dark berbere sauce. The owner said it had some kick. A beef stew with a little spice seemed like a relatively safe choice, so I went with it.
Our sides were brought out to us on a communal plate and my meal, along with Joanne’s, was poured out on plate. A basket of injera, a spongy sourdough-risen flatbread, turned out to be our utensils for the meal. After staring at each other for a good ten seconds, we both ripped off a piece of injera and dove on in to the plate in front of us.
The sega wat was juicy and tender with a powerful kick. That dark berbere sauce doesn’t play around! I made sure to dive into Joanne’s entree which was a more mild beef sautéed with onions. It was splendid but didn’t pack the punch I was craving, so I went back to my entree.
After some time had passed, I realized how full I was and took a gander down at my plate to notice it still half full! How on earth could my stomach be so stuffed already? A mixture of the injera and eating slowly instead of shoveling my face full with a fork must’ve been why.
If I ever need to worry about my portion control, an Ethiopian themed menu will do the trick.