Deciding how many stars to give Nile was really a struggle.
I ended up writing this entire article before deciding that Nile was only worth two out of five stars.
Ethiopian cuisine typically consists of spicy vegetable and meat dishes in the form of "wat" or thick stew, served with, atop or inside "injera" which is a large flatbread but seemed to me more like a large spongy sourdough crepe.
Ethiopians do not use utensils. Instead, they use pieces of the injera to pick up bites of the entrees and side dishes.
Among the positive qualities of Nile Ethiopian Restaurant was the unique factor.
How many people do you know who have eaten Ethiopian food? How many people do you know who have gone to a restaurant that legitimately does not offer any silverware?
My guess would be not many, and that is one of the reasons my party and I decided to dine at Nile.
However, the unique factor was muted by the loud music of the jazz band of the night.
The atmosphere seemed like that of a noisy club where you are meant to face the music and just listen as opposed to talk and enjoy your meal in the company of friends.
Admittedly, this would be entirely different on a night when Nile did not host a four-man jazz band.
The restaurant is dark with several cultural pieces peppering the walls including a hanging shrunken head that kept me slightly disturbed throughout my entire meal.
You enter Nile and see the full service bar and dining area that seats about 30, both of which are filled with diners who look like they've been there before and are enjoying themselves.
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In terms of food, I consider myself a very adventurous eater, with pig's ears and bull's testicles being some of the foods that I have tried and enjoyed.
However, Ethiopian cuisine was still far from anything I am used to. We began our meal with the Ayib Tikil, Ethiopian spiced cheese rolls that were cold and spicier than anything I have eaten in a while, but had good flavor.
The Timatim Fit Fit was a salad of finely chopped tomatoes, jalapenos and onions flavored with a lemony dressing. It ended up being the most recognizable and delicious item at our table.
Since no one in my party was even slightly familiar with Ethiopian food, we opted to let the chef choose a sampling combination for all of us to share.
We ended up with two large plates of injera topped with eight or so unidentifiable brownish blobs.
Among these were chicken, beef, salmon, lentils and other versions of wat. Less than half of these pleased our palates.
The final straw for Nile was when our waitress, who had been less than attentive the entire evening, returned our checks and asked, "Are you guys from U of R?" After telling her yes, she looked at us and responded with an icy "thought so."
Needless to say, I will not be returning to Nile Ethiopian Restaurant any time soon.
The experience is interesting, but the foreign flavors and appearance of the food were a bit much for my friends and me.
Prices range from $5 to $9 for appetizers and portions are generous for sharing.
Entrees are well priced, as well, between $12 and $18 and everything on the menu is 100 percent gluten-free.
If you have a hankering for Ethiopian cuisine or won't mind if your hands smell for three days, then perhaps you could consider Nile.
However, with the plethora of other unique and delicious dining options in Richmond, I'd say think again.
Contact staff writer Brigid Beitel at firstname.lastname@example.org
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