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Tesfa Ethiopian
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  • Tesfa Ethiopian

    Post #1 - February 12th, 2017, 9:37 am
    Post #1 - February 12th, 2017, 9:37 am Post #1 - February 12th, 2017, 9:37 am
    There is a little Ethiopian place on W Wilson Avenue at which I just started to eat. I can't find any mention on the forum, so I thought I would post about it, though it got some recent coverage (e.g. http://www.chicagoreader.com/Bleader/archives/2017/01/19/tesfa-ethiopian-cuisine-serves-up-abundant-wonders-in-uptown.)

    When I say the place is little, I mean it -- it is around four tables, and not the most atmospheric of restaurants. I get the sense most of her business is take-out.

    I spoke to the cook the other night, and she is absolutely lovely. She sells a number of things to take home, all of which she makes herself: her Shiro powder (ground chickpea flour) is wonderful, I can testify.

    What really makes this place standout is a number of options you can't find anywhere else in the city.

    She gets qocho imported from Addis Ababa once a month. It is a dense, spongy starch, which is traditionally eaten with kitfo, especially in Southern Ethiopia. I've never even seen it outside Addis Ababa before, and certainly never in America. It is the perfect foil for Tesfa's kitfo, which is wonderful: heavy on the cardamom and berbere, perfumed, oily, and aromatic.

    Tesfa also answers my yearning for Ethiopian breakfast food!

    The Kinche is wonderful: heavy with wheat, fragrant from the spicing. If you ask in advance, the cook will also make genfo, perhaps my favorite breakfast in the world:

    It is a meeting of three elements, in a battle of almost Platonic purity. Genfo is a heavy barley porridge, so thick a spoon stands up in it, molded in a bowl with a well in the center, into which is placed heavily spiced molten Ethiopian butter, a bright incandescent red against the grey-brown porridge. Around the outside, like a saving angel, is yoghurt. The simplicity of the dish is its genius: each element (savory, dairy, spice) playing off against each other. You can read about the dish here: http://www.eater.com/2016/2/17/11009068/genfo-gaat-ethiopia-eritrea

    Finally, I have somewhere I can go in Chicago to satisfy my primal genfo-eating desires.

    Thank you Tesfa!

    1023 W Wilson Ave
    Chicago, IL 60640
    (312) 698-4481
  • Post #2 - February 12th, 2017, 1:57 pm
    Post #2 - February 12th, 2017, 1:57 pm Post #2 - February 12th, 2017, 1:57 pm
    joshuacraze wrote:There is a little Ethiopian place on W Wilson Avenue at which I just started to eat. I can't find any mention on the forum, so I thought I would post about it, though it got some recent coverage (e.g. http://www.chicagoreader.com/Bleader/archives/2017/01/19/tesfa-ethiopian-cuisine-serves-up-abundant-wonders-in-uptown.)

    Welcome and thanks for these first few excellent posts on Immm and now Tesfa.

    I haven't been to Tesfa yet, though I did try a fair sampling of leftovers a month or two ago. Everything was top-notch, but I didn't think it was fair to write anything based only on a clamshell of hours-old food. Tesfa is right at the top of my list of places to visit.

    I did go to Lake Langano, Tesfa's predecessor at the same location run by some relatives, a few times, but never got around to posting. The two menus have a lot of similarities, so I thought I might as well post a few pictures from Lake Langano. It won't be exactly the same, but I'm guessing a lot of it is pretty similar. Even if it's not, I don't think you can have too many photos of Ethiopian false banana bread.

    joshuacraze wrote:What really makes this place standout is a number of options you can't find anywhere else in the city.

    She gets qocho imported from Addis Ababa once a month. It is a dense, spongy starch, which is traditionally eaten with kitfo, especially in Southern Ethiopia. I've never even seen it outside Addis Ababa before, and certainly never in America. It is the perfect foil for Tesfa's kitfo, which is wonderful: heavy on the cardamom and berbere, perfumed, oily, and aromatic.

    Yes! Even though qocho isn't my favorite starch, I think it's spectacular that Tesfa offers it. Everyone should try it at least once.

    Qocho is made from the fermented pseudostem of the false banana plant – enset, a fascinating crop especially important in the southern part of Ethiopia. As these old photos from Lake Langano show, the leaf-wrapped "bread" gets heated on a griddle before serving.

    Image

    Image

    Image

    Image

    Lake Langano served some of the best kitfo I've had. I trust Tesfa is carrying on the tradition.

    Lake Langano (closed)
    1023 W Wilson Av

    Tesfa Ethiopian Cuisine
    1023 W Wilson Av
    Chicago
    312-698-4481
    http://www.tesfaethiopiancuisine.com/
  • Post #3 - February 12th, 2017, 2:29 pm
    Post #3 - February 12th, 2017, 2:29 pm Post #3 - February 12th, 2017, 2:29 pm
    Looks intriguing. Does anyone know whether they make a version of ful medames (fava beans)? It's one of my favorite breakfasts, but I haven't been able to find it in Chicago (or at least a thoroughly home-cooked version).
  • Post #4 - February 12th, 2017, 3:33 pm
    Post #4 - February 12th, 2017, 3:33 pm Post #4 - February 12th, 2017, 3:33 pm
    whocanitbenow wrote:Looks intriguing. Does anyone know whether they make a version of ful medames (fava beans)? It's one of my favorite breakfasts, but I haven't been able to find it in Chicago (or at least a thoroughly home-cooked version).


    Tesfa has breakfast fuul, though I haven't tried it yet.
  • Post #5 - February 12th, 2017, 3:48 pm
    Post #5 - February 12th, 2017, 3:48 pm Post #5 - February 12th, 2017, 3:48 pm
    dang, some serious hot tips lately

    8)
  • Post #6 - February 12th, 2017, 4:01 pm
    Post #6 - February 12th, 2017, 4:01 pm Post #6 - February 12th, 2017, 4:01 pm
    I did go to Lake Langano, Tesfa's predecessor at the same location run by some relatives, a few times, but never got around to posting.

    My understanding of the ownership:
    The charming lady who acts as hostess and cook is the mother of the current owner and sister of the prior owner.

    When this location was Lake Langano, it was Chinese take-out and Ethiopian. The new owner dropped the Chinese aspect because they had problems retaining cooks.

    When I was there last on New Year's Eve, the dining room was rather cool. While the food is hot, I needed a sweater to stay warm.

    Regards,
    Cathy2
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #7 - February 12th, 2017, 5:08 pm
    Post #7 - February 12th, 2017, 5:08 pm Post #7 - February 12th, 2017, 5:08 pm
    Ever since visiting DC, I've been yearning for an Ethiopian breakfast place in Chicago. Thanks for the tip!
  • Post #8 - February 13th, 2017, 12:31 pm
    Post #8 - February 13th, 2017, 12:31 pm Post #8 - February 13th, 2017, 12:31 pm
    whocanitbenow wrote:Looks intriguing. Does anyone know whether they make a version of ful medames (fava beans)? It's one of my favorite breakfasts, but I haven't been able to find it in Chicago (or at least a thoroughly home-cooked version).

    bernard wrote:Ever since visiting DC, I've been yearning for an Ethiopian breakfast place in Chicago. Thanks for the tip!

    I think you can get Ethiopian breakfasts, including ful, at Royal Coffee (6764 N Sheridan) too. Their website doesn't include the menu, but an older Reader blurb lists a few offerings. Not sure how current the info is.

    Kate Schmidt wrote:At breakfast—rare in Chicago—options are Ethiopian-style scrambled eggs with tomato, green pepper, onion, chile powder, and injera or a combo of traditional dishes: fava beans, injera in beef stew, chechebsa (shredded flatbread coated with spiced butter and berbere), and kinche, a porridge rich with niter kibbe, clarified butter.

    Not that it matters any more, but here's an excellent breakfast plate of fitfit (chechebsa) with housemade quanta (dried beef) I had at Lake Langano.

    Image

    AlekH wrote:dang, some serious hot tips lately

    8)

    Yeah, what's going on? Weird.
  • Post #9 - February 16th, 2017, 8:47 am
    Post #9 - February 16th, 2017, 8:47 am Post #9 - February 16th, 2017, 8:47 am
    I have been going to Lagano for a long time, and now Tesfa. Cathy is correct in that it is the same chef, her son simply bought the restaurant outright so that she could keep doing what she does (and scrap the chinese menu). The Ethiopian menu is unchanged, as is the food.

    In my experience it has been the only Ethiopian in Chicago to write home about. A big agreement on the Kitfo, delicious with excellent quality cheese to go with it, add a side of her hot pepper/spice mix (not berbere, forget the name). Another go-to, for its uniqueness but also delicious, is the eggs with avocado. It's nothing like any other Ethiopian food I have had, but it goes nicely with the spread. Lots of other unique dishes on the menu, breads as mentioned, dried beef, offaly dishes, etc.
    Part of the secret of a success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.

    -Mark Twain
  • Post #10 - March 12th, 2017, 8:17 pm
    Post #10 - March 12th, 2017, 8:17 pm Post #10 - March 12th, 2017, 8:17 pm
    laikom wrote:A big agreement on the Kitfo, delicious with excellent quality cheese to go with it, add a side of her hot pepper/spice mix (not berbere, forget the name).

    I asked, it was mimita.

    whocanitbenow wrote:Looks intriguing. Does anyone know whether they make a version of ful medames (fava beans)? It's one of my favorite breakfasts, but I haven't been able to find it in Chicago (or at least a thoroughly home-cooked version).

    Indeed they have ful ("fol normal"):
    Image

    To be frank though, I thought the spice overpowered the usually-overlooked taste of the beans. Below is one possible rendition that is less spiced and more "bean-y", at Habesha Market in DC:
    Image

    Back to Tesfa... Kinche (forgot to include the aforementioned mimita):
    Image

    Also ask for coffee, which is not listed on the menu but advertised by a traditional coffee set right in the center of the room. When I asked to take a look at how they prepared it, I thought they were showing me how they cooked lentils. Turned out they were roasting the coffee beans to order. The aroma is incomparable:
    Image
  • Post #11 - June 12th, 2017, 1:46 pm
    Post #11 - June 12th, 2017, 1:46 pm Post #11 - June 12th, 2017, 1:46 pm
    I think it's quite likely that I can't tell good Ethiopian food from merely okay Ethiopian food, because while lunch here was enjoyable, I'm hard pressed to declare it appreciably better than any other Ethiopian place I've tried in Chicago.

    The kitfo was good (though served with injera, not the much heralded qocho), but here's the thing. Ethiopian Diamond is not particularly exciting, but one of the things I think they do well is kitfo. It is served with extra berbere and the meat is considerably less gristly than at Tesfa. Tesfa's portion size is ridiculously huge, which I admit may be an odd thing to complain about, but which I found off-putting -- I hated throwing that much food away. The other dishes were fine.

    I would like to go back and try some of the other dishes, including the elusive qocho, now that I know it must be requested (in general, we found communication a bit difficult). But I think Selam is next on my list.

    By the way, they seem to have expanded as there are now many tables in the dining room.
  • Post #12 - June 20th, 2017, 6:34 pm
    Post #12 - June 20th, 2017, 6:34 pm Post #12 - June 20th, 2017, 6:34 pm
    laikom wrote:Another go-to, for its uniqueness but also delicious, is the eggs with avocado.

    For some odd reason Laikom's post on Tesfa's egg/avocado popped into my head this morning. Delicious, unique, surprisingly filling. Tesfa's injera seems slightly tangier than what I've had in the past, perfect foil for the spiced richness of eggs scrambled with avocado, herbs, spiced butter and jalapeno.

    TesfaLTH3.jpg Tesfa eggs scrambled with avocado, herbs, spiced butter and jalapeno on injera.


    Tesfa2.jpg Tesfa


    TesfaLTH1.jpg Inqulal Be-Avocado


    Tesfa did a nice job on the expansion, service prompt and friendly, room clean and comfortable.

    Tesfa, Count me a Fan!
    Sauce on the side, always, implied, axiomatic..........never a doubt, BBQ sauce without.

    Low & Slow
  • Post #13 - June 8th, 2018, 5:22 pm
    Post #13 - June 8th, 2018, 5:22 pm Post #13 - June 8th, 2018, 5:22 pm
    Tesfa1.jpg Tesfa Ethiopian, Count me a Fan!
    Sauce on the side, always, implied, axiomatic..........never a doubt, BBQ sauce without.

    Low & Slow
  • Post #14 - June 17th, 2018, 1:04 pm
    Post #14 - June 17th, 2018, 1:04 pm Post #14 - June 17th, 2018, 1:04 pm
    whocanitbenow wrote:Looks intriguing. Does anyone know whether they make a version of ful medames (fava beans)? It's one of my favorite breakfasts, but I haven't been able to find it in Chicago (or at least a thoroughly home-cooked version).
    love fuul for breakfast, i was just thinking the same question

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