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Downtown Rochester gets A Taste of Ethiopia

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I have always been puzzled by the paradoxical expressions of sorrow over the lack of food in Ethiopia and the happy proclamations when a restaurant serving Ethiopian cuisine opens in any city. Some diners in downtown Rochester may be feeling those conflicting emotions with the opening of Taste of Ethiopia Restaurant & Bar.

The new establishment, located at 155 State Street downtown, is a sharp departure food-wise from the previous tenant, the Tala Vera California Mexican Cantina. The tilework has been retained, but wicker tables and cowhide-covered stools set a far different mood. Soft lighting and ethnic music help set a mood, as does te native garb of the owner.

She is Mesrak Tesfaye, a native of Ethiopia who came to Rochester to study at St. John Fisher College and stayed on to eventually become a special projects coordinator with the Subway sandwich chain. This is her first foray into her ethnic cuisine, a line of dishes difficult to pigeonhole.

The menu includes such slow-cooked offerings as wats (lamb, chicken, beef or lentil stews) and vegetables familiar to western palates, as well as a fermented flatbread called injera and and raw and nearly-rwa beef dishes called kifto and gored gored. Dishes are offered a la carte ($8 to $12) or on combo samplers ($12 to $15). There also is a $6.99 lunch buffet containing three different lentil stews, four different vegetable dishes, steamed rice and the injera bread. There is no alcohol served, although a license application is pending. Strong coffee is ground daily on the premises.

Taste of Ethiopia's hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Friday and 1 to 8 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. Phone: (585) 503-4056. Evening parking is available at City Hall.

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