Awash Ethiopian Restaurant is a sincere no-frills restaurant and the only eatery in Miami with the distinctive cuisine of the East African country abutting the Horn of Africa. Seafaring traders from India rounded the horn in ships bearing exotic spices that flavor the curry-like wats (stews) served on round metal trays set with plates of spongy sourdough flatbreads called injera, made from flour ground from the tiny native grain teff. Sit at chairs around woven basket tables with lids called mesob. A coffee ceremony space is in back. Keep in mind you will be eating with your fingers, although cutlery is provided if you insist.
Start With These Dishes
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Get samosa-like sambusa, deep-fried pastry triangles stuffed with an earthy mixture of lentils, green peppers and onion in a thin brick-red sauce made from berbere, a ground chile and spice blend. There’s also tomato firfir, a mix of torn bits of injera bread, diced tomato, green peppers, onion and garlic moistened with oil. Kitfo is Ethiopian tartare made from minced extra lean raw beef marinated in niter kibbeh (clarified butter) infused with ginger, garlic and mitmita, a blend of ground chiles, cardamom, cloves, cumin and cinnamon served with crumbled ayeb (homemade crumbled cottage cheese). Plop some of the raw meat into a bit of injera with some of the mild cheese and wash it down with a St. George, beer brewed in Ethiopia. Or try the dabo, thick strips of bread baked with black sesame seeds and hot sauce dip.
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This is the ultimate communal dining experience, with everyone dipping their fingers into the heaps of spicy stews on injera that resemble an artist’s pallet with rolled up injera as edible napkins. Eat by ripping pieces of injera and using them to scoop up the spicy stews. Try the combination, with doro wat (stewed chicken and whole hard cooked egg in spicy tomato sauce laced with ground allspice, fenugreek, nutmeg and hot red peppers), gomen (collard green strips) cooked with onion and garlic, shiro (split yellow peas with red pepper), tikel gomen (cabbage and carrot with ginger, onion and garlic), misir (stewed red lentils), braised beef and key sar (beet salad). Tibs is a richly flavored cross between a stir-fry and stew made with beef or lamb scented with fenugreek and berbere. Kikil is lamb chunks sautéed with turmeric and spiced butter for a fragrant blend of meat and scorched earth spiciness. Bozena shirot mixes split peas with cubes of beef slow stewed with onions, garlic and red peppers. On weekend afternoons, partake in a coffee ceremony with roasted and ground beans boiled in a black clay jebena (pot). When the grounds settle, the brew is poured into small ceramic cups and served with a basket of popcorn.
Save Room For Dessert
There’s baklwa (walnut and honey syrup baklava) and chocolate cake.
What Makes It Special
Husband and wife owners Fouad and Eka Wassel make all guests feel at home and are realizing their dream of bringing the food of their homeland to Miami. Eka, who learned to cook from her mother and a neighbor who had “gifted hands,” runs the kitchen with another Ethiopian woman making the fermented injera. The restaurant is named for the Awash River, which runs through the Rift Valley in Ethiopia and is considered the birthplace of early humans.
If you go
Place: Awash Ethiopian Restaurant
Address: 19934 NW Second Ave., Miami Gardens
Contact: 305-770-5100, awashmiami.com
Hours: Tuesday-Thursday 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m.-midnight, Sunday 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Coffee ceremony is performed Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 4 p.m.
Prices: Appetizers $4-$8, entrees $8.99-$14.99, platter for two $19.99, desserts $2.99