Blue Nile Ethiopian Restaurant Review: Houston Zagat Winner

Updated on February 17, 2020
Peggy W profile image

I live in Houston, and I have worked as a nurse. My interests include art, traveling, reading, gardening, cooking, and our wonderful pets.

Interior of the Blue Nile, an Ethiopian restaurant in Houston
Interior of the Blue Nile, an Ethiopian restaurant in Houston | Source

Adventure in Dining

Sometimes, when I watch television—in particular, the Food Network—my curiosity about unfamiliar world cuisines is sparked. Houston's Blue Nile Ethiopian restaurant allowed me to explore one of those cuisines.

My curiosity about this cuisine was inspired by Melissa d’Arabian (who won season 5 of Food Network Star) describing the dish called doro wot on The Best Thing I Ever Ate when singling out “finger foods.” It made me want to try it.

That is what led my journey, accompanied by a good friend to this restaurant in Houston.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The exterior of the Blue NileInterior wall décor
The exterior of the Blue Nile
The exterior of the Blue Nile | Source
Interior wall décor
Interior wall décor | Source

Sharing a Lunch

My friend is also an adventurous soul when it comes to sampling foods of which she is unfamiliar, so we decided to share a lunch. Sharing is the operative word because this was to be a communal finger-food experience.

Clean hands are mandatory before beginning a meal such as this. After watching the television program, I made sure to have some wet wipes in my purse just for some extra cleansing purposes. They were utilized; in fact, several of them were!

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Interior décor Interior décor
Interior décor
Interior décor | Source
Interior décor
Interior décor | Source

Location and Hours

Located outside of 610 Loop, this family-owned restaurant was opened in 1994 and has been rated many times by Zagat as well as by readers of the Houston Chronicle as being representative of fine award-winning Ethiopian cuisine.

It is in a nondescript commercial strip shopping center with paintings on the exterior glass representing scenery found in the country of Ethiopia. It is located east of Gessner, on the north side of the street.

Address and Phone:

  • 9400 Richmond Avenue, Houston, Texas
  • 713-782-6882 (reservations accepted)

Hours:

  • Weekdays: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
  • Weekends: 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Closeup of exterior windowsInterior of the restaurantThe art inside the restaurant
Closeup of exterior windows
Closeup of exterior windows | Source
Interior of the restaurant
Interior of the restaurant | Source
The art inside the restaurant
The art inside the restaurant | Source

Ethnic Surroundings

When my friend and I entered the doors, it was like entering into another world. Exotic aromas of incense and spices tantalized our senses. Accenting the warm-colored walls are various types of Ethiopian art. Some of it was framed and presented under glass, and some of it appeared tethered to wooden sticks.

Other artistic touches include some hand-carved pieces and musical instruments along with basketry and pottery.

A beautiful young woman greeted us in an amicable and warm, welcoming manner. She was dressed in what I assume is native costuming a long white dress with some appearing African embellishments which conformed nicely to her tall and slender body. Our pretty and convivial hostess led us to a white-clothed table with white cloth napkins and comfortable wooden chairs.

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Interior décorInside décor Inside décor Inside décor Inside décor Inside décor Interior décor
Interior décor
Interior décor | Source
Inside décor
Inside décor | Source
Inside décor
Inside décor | Source
Inside décor
Inside décor | Source
Inside décor
Inside décor | Source
Inside décor
Inside décor | Source
Interior décor
Interior décor | Source

Menu Decisions

After looking around at the ethnically inspired and nicely decorated room, we started to peruse the items on the menu, none of which were familiar to us. Categories included vegetarian as well as meat items.

Doro wat, the food item viewed and shown on The Food Network, was on my list of things to try. Other than that, I had no idea what might be appealing.

Our hostess, who was also our server that day, came to the rescue. When she found out that this was our first time to visit the restaurant much less try any Ethiopian food, she suggested that we try the Vegetarian Sampler and the Meat Sampler. It would be presented all together on one plate for my friend and me to share. We agreed that this was probably a smart move and decided to take her up on her suggestion.

Interior décor
Interior décor | Source

Vegetarian and Meat Lover’s Delight

Food items served to us on that one large platter included the following:

  • Gomen (chopped collard greens with garlic and green pepper)
  • Atkilt Wot (a cabbage potato mixture that we found pleasing)
  • Yemissir Wot (a good tasting red lentil preparation)
  • Green lentils prepared with oil, onions, and spices
  • Kik Alicha (split peas, ours were yellow split peas with onion and spices)
  • Doro Wot (the chicken in berbere sauce that lured us to this restaurant)
  • Alicha Minchetabish (minced beef with spices)
  • Yessiga Wot (beef cubes in berbere sauce and special herbs and spices)
  • House Salad (lettuce leaves with tomato lightly dressed in oil and vinegar)
  • Green Beans with onion, garlic, chopped tomatoes and pieces of carrot

As one can probably tell from this listing, my friend and I were not about to go hungry on this particular day!

Our mixed vegetable and meat combo
Our mixed vegetable and meat combo | Source

Doro Wot

Just what is doro wot? It is chicken prepared in a berbere sauce. There are many recipes for berbere sauce, and doro wot available to view online. Berbere sauces ready-made can also be purchased if one has access to stores selling international ingredients.

Suffice it to say that berbere sauce, and therefore doro wot, is a vibrant and sumptuously sauced entrée with loads of ingredients rounding out those robust flavors. While some hot peppers are a part of the dish, it was not overly spicy to our taste-buds.

On the table was a salt shaker and also one filled with a red substance that we determined had some cayenne pepper and perhaps other spices which would have turned up the heat.

The doro wot featured on The Food Network was from a restaurant in Los Angeles, and the chef took much time and lots of stirring in its preparation. Whether prep time at the Blue Nile requires a similarly long time (or not) in making this dish, one thing that my friend and I agreed upon was that it is delicious.

Injera Bread

This spongy crepe-like bread called Injera sat as a base under all of our food selections. It was also served to each of us on separate plates to utilize in place of cutlery.

Using our fingers and this bread to scoop up the food is what truly makes dining at this restaurant an occasion to remember. One rips off little pieces of this spongy creation and uses it to pick up pieces of whatever one might be eating. Since this is a communal dining affair, this is where the clean hands and general respect about manners and hygiene come into play. We did see one diner who was eating his meal with a fork. Most other patrons, like us, were using the injera bread as intended.

The smallest grain in the world, called teff, is what is used to make injera bread. Teff is very high in protein and also contains calcium, iron, and fiber as well as all eight amino acids useful in human health (among other attributes), so it is an excellent food source.

Much like sourdough bread, injera is fermented, thus giving the final product a slightly sour taste. My fellow dining companion said that she could happily munch on Injera anytime just by itself. We both found it to be pleasing to our taste buds.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Injera breadUsing the injera bread to pick up items from our mixed vegetable and meat combo
Injera bread
Injera bread | Source
Using the injera bread to pick up items from our mixed vegetable and meat combo
Using the injera bread to pick up items from our mixed vegetable and meat combo | Source

Ethiopia and The Blue Nile

The area of Ethiopia is one of the earliest locations on earth for humankind. We gradually spread out from there to the rest of the world over time. Some people say that the Blue Nile, which is one of the major tributaries of the Nile River, originated in the Garden of Eden.

Ethiopia has a rich history and beautiful natural surroundings. Three of the world’s major religions all reside there. Christians, Muslims, and Jewish people follow their creeds with the Christians being in the majority.

Getting to spend a bit of time in an Ethiopian restaurant, like Houston’s Blue Nile, which has Ethiopian music softly playing, Ethiopian art adorning the floors and walls, and typical Ethiopian food upon which to feast is like getting to enjoy a small microcosm of the vast country of Ethiopia on the other side of the world. At least it will have to suffice for me since no travel plans are in the making for a trip to Ethiopia any time in the foreseeable future.

Location of Ethiopia in Africa

A
Country of Ethiopa:
Ethiopia

get directions

Artwork inside the restaurant
Artwork inside the restaurant | Source

Ethiopian Tea

Iced water with lemon automatically comes to the table. We also chose to have some Ethiopian tea instead of regular iced tea to accompany our lunch. It comes in a footed glass mug with fragrantly scented hot water and a teabag of Ethiopian tea. For those familiar with chai tea, the cups of Ethiopian tea had a similar flavor, slightly spicy with a hint of sweetness.

We divided our leftover food into two take-home containers after we had eaten all that we could of this spicy and delicious lunch.

What we experienced is that the Injera bread underlying the various dishes becomes infused with the different flavors and is scrumptious all on its own. Thus nothing goes to waste with this meal except for the chicken bone from the doro wot.

Art on the walls
Art on the walls | Source

Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

There is another experience I hope to have on another occasion. They have a coffee ceremony for a price of $20. One gets to participate in the pan-roasting of the coffee beans as well as the grinding and brewing. One of Ethiopia’s most significant exports is coffee. Taking part in one of their coffee ceremonies sounds like it might be fun.

Hopefully, you enjoyed my friend’s and my adventure in dining at the Blue Nile.

Below is a video that showcases some of Ethiopia's culture, landmarks, and other information with accompanying music.

Have you ever eaten Ethiopian food? Do you like it or would you be willing to try it?

See results

© 2020 Peggy Woods

Comments

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    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      4 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello again Manatita,

      The plate that they served us certainly did have a wide variety of foods placed upon it. The extra tissues that I brought with me were wet wipes. All the restaurants over here also have restrooms where hands can be washed before and/or after a meal.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 

      4 months ago from london

      I think they try to westernize a little bit for us. It is natural in Ethiopia to go to the washroom first and again after eating, but yes, tissues/Kleenex is a great idea. Glad that you are open to this kind of food.

      I really like the idea of what the Indians would probably call a Thali -- a large plate with sections for so many different things. Delicioso!

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      4 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Manatita,

      We knew that we would be eating a lot of food using our hands, so we made sure that our hands were clean to start the meal. They had napkins, but I just carried some extra tissues to be sure that we had plenty. At the end of our meal, they served warmed washcloths with which to clean our hands. This restaurant did not have a dance performed, but we were there for lunch.

      I am pleased that you liked this, especially since you have eaten at restaurants in the country of Ethiopia.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 

      4 months ago from london

      You have done an excellent job, Peggy. I was worried that you would not mention the Injera. It is a stable base for Ethiopian food as well as the coffee mentioned at the end.

      Now usually, you are directed to wash your hands prior to eating so I wondered why you thought of your own tissues. You have done a great job though. Do they have the cultural dance at the end in this restaurant? It is a big feature in famous Ethiopian restaurants in Ethiopia.

      I visited a place in Austin but not Houston. Next time. I have travelled throughout Ethiopia about six times for humanitarian and spiritual work. I totally recommend a visit. Excellent Hub!

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      4 months ago

      I believe Numbers 1 & 2 are declining in population. Mainly because they are declining in other areas.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      4 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Robert,

      Yes, all the cities in Texas are expanding. At the rate Houston is growing, we will soon take over the #3 spot in the U.S. by population.

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      4 months ago

      It seems many Texas cities have expanded greatly in recent years.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      4 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Robert,

      Houston has grown by leaps and bounds since 1980. You would be amazed at the difference in size!

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      4 months ago

      Yes, it is fun learning about the interesting parts of this city. I was only in Houston once on a day trip about 1980.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      4 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Robert,

      I am glad that you enjoyed this introduction to Ethiopian food and could see this restaurant in Houston via the Internet as well. Thanks for your comment.

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      4 months ago

      This is a good rundown of a Houston restaurant. It is also a good introduction to Ethiopian cuisine. Thanks for posting.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      4 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Liz,

      So happy to know that you enjoyed the Blue Nile restaurant review. It is a special place in Houston for people who enjoy eating Ethiopian food.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      4 months ago from UK

      You have given a thorough account of your visit with great illustrations. It's the next best thing to a reader experiencing this restaurant themselves. I also appreciate the added background details you give and the research you have put into this excellent article.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      4 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Chitrangada,

      Thanks for taking a look at the Blue Nile Restaurant from afar. I wish you could smell the aromas from afar. It is incredible walking into this restaurant and experiencing everything in totality.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      4 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi FlourishAnyway,

      If this restaurant was closer to our part of the city, I would enjoy going back there more often. I have yet to participate in their coffee ceremony which seems like it would be a fun thing to do.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      4 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Linda,

      Yes, hand cleanliness is imperative when eating any food with hands instead of utensils. It was so much fun using the injera to scoop up the food.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      4 months ago from New Delhi, India

      The Blue Nile Ethiopian restaurant, looks amazing in it’s inner decor. I especially like the paintings, they look so expressive.

      The food looks delicious and nutritious.

      Thanks for sharing this interesting and wonderful information.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      4 months ago from USA

      How exciting! I’m not an adventurous sort but when I have tried other cultures I’ve often been pleasantly surprised. Good on you for trying! Will you be a regular?

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      4 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I love the decoration inside the restaurant. The food looks delicious and sounds very interesting. I can see why hand hygiene is important, but with that in mind, I would love to try the food that you and your friend ate.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      4 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Bill,

      That is one of the fun things that living in a city the size of Houston has to offer. The traffic...now that is another story! Ha!

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      4 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello Bushra Iqbal,

      It is a restaurant experience that lingers long in my memory because it is so different from the usual food that I typically eat. I am happy to hear that you enjoyed reading this.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Now that is very cool. I guess I would expect it in a large city. I can't imagine ever eating Ethiopian food in Olympia. :)

    • Bushra Iqbal profile image

      Anya Ali 

      4 months ago from Rabwah, Pakistan

      Sounds like a cool place!

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      4 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Pamela,

      It is fun living in an area with all kinds of world cuisines. I have yet to try them all, but I am willing to do so! Thanks for your comment.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      4 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Rochelle,

      I hope that your son and his wife enjoy it. I am always up for trying new and different foods. Thanks for passing this information on to them.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      4 months ago from Sunny Florida

      I have not been to an Ethiopian restaurant but it sounds quite interesting. The Doro Wot sounds good for one. It seems that you get a lot of very good food in a meal and you covered this restaurant's options very thoroughly.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 

      4 months ago from California Gold Country

      Looks good to me. I passed your link along to my son and his wife who live in Houston. He said they want to try it.

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