Injera—a large, spongy pancake made from fermented teff flour—is the cornerstone of Ethiopian cuisine. It's both plate and utensil; piles of intensely spiced vegetables and thick, meaty stews are ladled onto the injera like paint on a palette, then hunks torn from the dense pancake are used to pinch mounds of spicy stew into tiny tacos.
Idaho's Snake River region produces a significant amount of teff—a fine grain with a mild, nutty flavor—but Boise hasn't been home a single Ethiopian restaurant. Until now.
Kibrom's Restaurant opened in late November in the food court at the Boise International Market. Owners Kibrom Milash and his wife Tirhas Hailu hail from Eritrea, a small country on the horn of Africa, but they moved in 2008 to a refugee camp in neighboring Ethiopia, where they ran a restaurant for five years. When they resettled in Boise in 2013, they focused on opening an Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurant.
Kibrom's boasts a small open kitchen where Milash fries up lentil samosas and stirs bubbling pots on the stove, while Hailu scoops mounds of stew onto light brown injera behind the deli-style counter. Customers order from a large, numbered menu that features items like Zigni, "morsels of beef in Kibrom's signature berbere red sauce," and Red Ades, "red lentils, onions and carrots with a hint of alicha spice." Berebere—a red spice blend that includes chili peppers, ginger, paprika and garlic—is another pillar of Ethiopian cuisine, along with turmeric-laced Alicha and Niter Kibbeh, a clarified butter seasoned with lots of spices. Ethiopian food is not lacking in flavor.
With the combo plates, sample two to five dishes ladled on a single injera for between $8.50-$11.50. Each entree is served with a side of rolled up injera and a romaine salad with raw onion slivers, diced tomato and slices of spicy green chilies.
Though the smorgasbord of spices makes it difficult to identify a standout item, the beef dishes—like the Red Tibs, the Zigni and the Zilzil—packed the richest flavor, along with the Derho, a traditional stew of chicken wings and whole eggs served in a buttery tomato-based sauce with Berbere spice. The veggie dishes sometimes lacked consistency. On one visit, the Shiro, ground chickpeas in an herb sauce, was thick and complex, but on a return trip it was bland and runny. Thankfully each table comes with a shaker of bright red Mitmita, an aromatic seasoning made from African birdseye chili peppers.
Perhaps one of the best parts of the meal at Kibrom's is the finale. Once all the stews are consumed, you can devour the injera plate, its airy pockets soaked in savory juices and stained dark red from buttery spices. A hearty meal like this calls for a pick-me-up and you can grab a strong cup of coffee just a few feet away at Kahve.