Tempelhofer Ufer, at least the stretch between Möckernbrücke and Hallesches Tor, is not anyone’s idea of Berlin at its most charming, especially in winter. Yet here I was, huddled up in my winter coat scrunching up my face against the sharp, freezing wind and overtaking a typically optimistic gaggle of Mediterranean high-schoolers who were being checked into their youth hostel and taking some time to chat on the phone dressed in abysmally thin (but matching, bless) Jack Daniels wifebeaters. It was obvious: they were going to have the best school trip EVER and I was in need of some comfort food.
I’d been to an Ethiopian restaurant before, so I knew I’d have to eat with my hands; or rather with the beautifully stretchy, light and spongy pancakes called injera. As the friend who’d invited me was a regular, the waitress knew what we were ordering before we did: the Blue Nile kitfo and a combination platter of sigawot (beef in red pepper sauce, a little overcooked but well tasty), dorowot (a chicken leg and egg in a more gingery stew), a finely grained cottage cheese, red lentil stew, and two different kinds of veggies. All would be served on a large round dish of injera, making this an ideal restaurant for group dining, and there was a considerate little side table to hold our glasses and a plate of injera.
Note: You might think you need an extra plate of them midway through, but you probably won’t, just so you know.
My immediate favorite was the kitfo, minced raw beef with spices and clarified butter; a pure dose of protein that we had a hard time not just scooping up with our fingers. It immediately became clear I really should have prepared myself a bit better, skipped lunch, for instance, or even breakfast too, as Ethiopian cuisine is not only a lot of fun to eat, but it’s also wonderfully filling (if not in a starchy sauce and potatoes and boiled meat kind of way). At the end of the meal, when we’d grudgingly thrown in the towel on eating all of the deliciously saucy injera left on our table, we were sent on our respective ways with a shot of honey wine, a perfect bracer for the waddle back to the U-Bahn and the last few weeks of winter beyond.
Note 2: Now they do serve more ‘international’ dishes like pasta and steak, but those seem to mostly be there for the more fearful hostel guests that wander in expecting more traditional tourist fare, so by all means order from the Ethiopian menu.