Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Wat??? Wot? Enjoyed the Injera at Umana

"What" is a question, as is "huh what" or "aye, pardon". Wat (or wot) is a stew.

OK I'll say that again.

Wat, a spicy meat or vegetable stew, is served on injera, a spongy sourdough bread, in this case about 12" square, made from naturally gluten free teff flour. It soaks up the juices and serves as a vehicle to help you gobble up every delicious bite without losing a drop.

Umana Restaurant and Wine Bar is boasting street food from around the world - and the menu is eclectic - Thai Satay and Jerk Lamb and Fried Chicken and Samosa - and the place smells wonderful, redolant with exotic spice.  Umana means "the meeting place of all people". And those that know order the Injera ($27).

At the intersection of Central and Washington Ave in downtown Albany
Served nightly, this is definitely a dish to share (burp), and it is not for the faint of heart. We had a total of nine, (9), toppings - colorful, creative, flavorful  and kickbutt spicy (just like me). The injera is bland, and the texture is a bit weird at first, but it's mesmerizing the way it holds up to the moisture. Berbere is the spice base (think hot chilies, cardamon, ginger, fenugreek, nutmeg, cloves, etc.), a well loved and distinctive Ethiopian spice, but there's much much more happening in that kitchen.

COUNTERCLOCKWISE from left:A fork tender serving of very spicy lamb - too delicious to snarf down fast. The cucumber, tomato and ginger salad with mint was a nice foil. Turmeric cabbage and potato wat was soft and searing at the same time. The beans, with a touch of sweet potato, were pan sauteed with a sneaky spice. Cardamom scented beets were lovely and cooling. The chicken wat was a hot scoop of heaven. The lentils, one of my favorite tastes on the plate, were squishy and tasty. The butternut squash was rich with the flavors of curry, followed by a spicy spinach mix laced with onion and red pepper. Optional, at center, was a perfect fried egg that oozes into it all. Decadent.

The Injera is AMAZING!

A beautiful presentation. We made a mess of it because we don't have any experience with this stuff, which is meant to be eaten out of hand, but "all people" as well as fire goddesses are welcome to use utensils, which we did. I asked for more injera ($3.00) to cut the heat as the spice pushed me over into pre-meltdown. My superpowers did not keep me from being a chili-weenie.

The wines were lovely - we did a flight ($10) of South African wines that included a Fairvalley Chenin Blanc ($9/glass) that we both loved (fruity, crisp, clean, and cold), and a Pinotage that was much like a pinot noir only richer and deeper in flavor. Cedarburg Bukettraube was sweet and creamy and just a bit lemony, different and, in hindsight, may have been good with the fiery food.

The decor is funky and open, dark and woody, as festive as it is casual. The staff to a one were knowledgeable, friendly, neighborly even. I was with all the people, even if I am a goddess, and it was good.

Zena, Goddess of Fire

Friendly bar, friendly place