We tried Asmara Saturday night. They were very friendly -- especially when I asked if they were Eritrean, an easy call since Asmara is the capital of Eritrea. This is a little spot, probably with a clientele of cabbies, with a television in the corner that broadcasts Eritrean television (altenrnatively maddening or interesting, depending on what they were showing). The food is, not surprisingly, very similar to Ethiopian, though for the time being the dinner choices are limited. We had tibsi begie (yebeg tibs at an Ethiopian restaurant), lamb cubes in a berbere sauce, as well as tibsi derho, chicken cubes also in berbere sauce. We asked for the lamb spicy and the chicken medium. The difference was in the number of chilies, which looked far more menacing than they were. The lamb was hardly too hot to handle, but both were nicely seasoned, coming with salad and (too little for our tastes) very delicious spinach. The home made injera is very light and spongy; when we needed extra pieces, they took the time to make them to order, and they were still warm. We would have liked an order of tibsi -- lamb or chicken over an open flame -- rather than two dishes similarly cooked, but alas it was not available. The menu also lists pasta with home made sauce and salsata, pasta with egg and parmesan and home made sauce. The pasta dishes are not surprising, because Eritrea was an Italian colony for the first half of the twentieth century.
They also have a wide array of breakfast dishes, for those who crave exotic breakfasts: foule mudammes (Egyptian style fava beans); kitch fitfit (pieces of home made bread with berbere sauce topped with sour cream or yogurt); fitata; fata (bread and olive oil with bebere sauce and sour cream; and hatsar silsi, berbere sauce with a choice of sardine, chicken, or tuna.
They may be a cafe ... but they didn't yet have coffee (Eritrean, Italian, or gringo!)
The food is nicely prepared and inexpensive, and the service is very friendly; a shame that the lunch and dinner menu is not larger and more varied.
6511 N. Clark