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Spotlight: Scott Joseph Reviews Selam Ethiopian & Eritrean Cuisine

Selam Ethiopian & Eritrean Cuisine interior. Photo courtesy of Orlando Restaurant Guide

Selam Ethiopian & Eritrean Cuisine will not win any awards for its decor or ambience. It occupies a large, open space in a Williamsburg strip mall. The lighting is harsh, and a television playing a travelog on Ethiopian cuisine was annoying and loud.

But the food and service made up for the lack of decor.

You may have eaten Eritrean food in the past, too, and not known the difference. There aren't many distinctions between the two -- after all, the two countries were one until the 1990s. One of the few differences involves tomatoes. Eritreans use them and Ethiopians do not.

One thing that is similar in the two cuisines is the use of injera, the spongy flatbread made of teff. Main courses are served on a large platter lined with injera accompanied by rollups of the bread for diners to tear off and pick up wads of wat. (If you're uncomfortable eating with your hands, this cuisine is not for you.)

For our entree, my guest and I chose the Selam Meat and Veggie Combination Special, a large round platter with ample samples of several of the menu's highlights.

It included chicken tibs cooked in the hot and peppery berbere sauce that is a staple of many of the wats, or stews. The beef tibs were served mild and spicy, the spicy the better.

The vegetables included wonderful Gomen, which you'll recognize as collard greens. The best part was the injera that that wats were sitting on. Scooping that up with the last bit of meats and vegetables was perfect.

The staff of Selam couldn't have been more welcoming and gracious. They gladly indulged questions and offered suggestions. And the woman who came through the dining room to share the aroma of the beans that were roasting in the pot she carried was kind enough to stop at our table so we could breathe it in.

I can do with a little less ambience when the service and the food are both so good.