When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).
Restaurant: Gojo Ethiopian Restaurant Location: 3015 East Thomas Road Open: One month Eats: Ethiopian Price: Between $11 and $25 per person
When it comes to Ethiopian restaurants, you might say Phoenix is experiencing somewhat of a boom since late last year. To be specific: two.
But that's two more than what the city had in the past -- and that's a good thing. Especially since the most recent addition, Gojo Ethiopian Restaurant, looks to be another great choice for Phoenicians in search of the spicy vegetable and meat dishes the country is known for.
Located at 3015 East Thomas Road, in the former home of Bacchanal Greek Restaurant, Gojo (Ethiopian for a country town house) comes courtesy of owner and chef Zufan Alemu. Originally from Ethiopia, Alemu worked 15 years for the United Nations in Kuwait before coming to the Valley in 2006. Alemu owns and operates Gojo with her husband and two friends.
Gojo's menu features around 15 wallet-friendly vegetarian and non-vegetarian traditional Ethiopian favorites served on trays covered with floppy, tart "plates" of injera (flat sourdough bread). Order up your favorite or, better yet, bring a friend along and sample several dishes with one of three wot combos ($12-$14).
Like any good Ethiopian chef, Alemu makes a solid doro wat, the famous dish featuring chicken simmered in rich spices like berbere and kibae as well as onion. The key wot (seasoned and spicy beef) and sega begomen (bone-on lamb and collard greens) also are worth noting for their rich flavors.
On the vegetarian side, don't miss Alemu's lively red split lentils (misir wot), spicy ground peas cooked with onion, herbs, and seasonings (mitten shiro), and wonderfully crunchy and lightly spiced cabbage, carrots, and potatoes (tikil gomen).
On Gojo's interior, Alemu says there's still more to do -- and there is. The large room, done up in white paint and glass block, features a few pieces of Ethiopian-themed artwork and a place for Alemu's Ethiopian coffee ceremony (which takes place on Mondays starting at 3 p.m.), but it's still essentially the old Bacchanal -- right down to the Greek murals on the walls.
That shouldn't prevent you from stopping by and welcoming Alemu to the neighborhood. After all, having two tasty Ethiopian restaurants in Phoenix is better -- way better -- than having none.
Gojo Ethiopian Restaurant 3015 East Thomas Road 602-840-3411 www.gojoethiorestaurant.com
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Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily