By Andy Tarnoff Publisher Published Nov 15, 2007 at 1:11 PM

I'll admit that I've spent 33 years on this Earth without ever sampling Ethiopian cuisine, but after today's lunch, I can now cross the spicy and exotic African food off my list. Continuing my mission of trying a new restaurant each week, my wife and I had lunch at the Ethiopian Cottage, 1824 N. Prospect Ave. It wasn't the best lunch I've ever had, but it was far from the worst.

I deliberately didn't re-read Amy Carlson's review from April on OnMilwaukee.com, as I wanted to go in and experience this cuisine completely on my own terms. All I knew about Ethiopian food was that it's centered around bread, and it's a communal experience.

There wasn't much of a community present, though, since including the two employees and my wife, a total of four people were at the restaurant for the 45 minutes we spent during our lunch there. Which is why the 20-minute wait for our food seemed rather long, despite a server who repeatedly and graciously offered us water refills.

I won't offer much of a critique on our dishes, since I have no other Ethiopian entrees or restaurants with which to compare them. We both ordered vegetable dishes with potatoes and corn for about $10. On the large round dish upon which they were served, they looked virtually identical, but my wife's was a bit sweeter, containing curry to my garlic. The sides that came on the plate were quite good, indeed.

I did enjoy the Injera, the sourdough pancake-y bread that we used to mop up our entrees. I could've used a bit of an explanation from the server, though I suppose it's my fault for not reading the primer on Ethiopian food in the menu. Honestly, as a first-timer, I felt a little uncomfortable with the lack of silverware, but I freely admit that could just be the Westernized snob in me that doesn't like to eat with his hands.

I certainly left the Ethiopian Cottage full and satisfied. My wife said her lunch was delicious; I'd say mine was decent to good. I won't rush back, but if a friend suggests Ethiopian, I won't cower sheepishly in the corner, either.

It's fun to try new foods, and it's even more fun to write about them. It's that type of culinary challenge that I'm happy to accept, one that provides new flavors, scents and styles that keep the experience fresh and unique.

 

Andy is the founder and co-owner of OnMilwaukee.com. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.

Before launching OnMilwaukee.com in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.

Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.