A restaurant worth Blogging about – Zeni in San Jose, CA


Ever eaten ‘Ethiopian’? Me neither. So when my son and brand new daughter-in-law suggested we try their favorite restaurant on our trip to visit them this week – we were delighted to accept. And what a meal it was!

First a bit about the restaurant. It’s located in a mall (not totally surprising around here – there are lots of restaurants in malls) in a rather laid back and lower-income section of San Jose. As my son joked – it’s the ‘wrong’ side of the tracks. But once thru the front door – the restaurant exudes love, warmth, and welcome. From the smiling staff in their very attractive bright blue blouses to the gentleman playing jazz on 3 – count’m 3 – keyboards in the corner, this is a delightful space.

There are 2 sections to the restaurant – and we were fortunate to score a table in the more traditional section with its wicker tables and low stools. These are perfectly suited to the very traditional way the meal is served – on a single large platter with a pancake like flat bread serving as the base on which the food is lovingly placed. Along with that pancake (intended to be used to mop up the remains of the meal) they gave us a basket of rolled flat breads. The basic idea – use the bread to grab the food – and good luck getting it from the platter to your mouth!

Cautioned by our kids to be careful about ordering too much food – we opted for just 3 main courses for the 4 of us – a vegetable combo, a lamb dish (stewed lamb in a curry like sauce), and a spicy beef dish that came with home-made cheese. We also ordered one appetizer to share – a filo dough pastry stuffed with meat. Everything – and I mean everything was totally yummy. I particularly liked some of the vegetable options – colorful and tasty, they were a delight to the palette. But I’m ready to eat Eggplant under just about any condition.

What was most surprising – beside the extremely reasonable price of just $70 for everything – including 2 drinks – was how incredibly filling the meal was. Despite our cautious ordering – we simply could not finish everything.

According to my kids – who apparently eat here regularly – coming early is critical. If you arrive around 7:15 – you can expect to wait in line – a truth that was obvious as we left, pushing our way thru waiting customers!

Another note – during the day they offer a ‘coffee’ ceremony that must be ordered at least 24 hours in advance – costs $40 for up to 10 people – and includes a server who roasts the beans right in front of you. My husband was keen to come back to try that – and I must agree – it would be cool to watch.

Definitely an A restaurant – do check it out!

Zeni Ethiopian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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