If there’s one thing I miss the most about Dallas, it’s diverse food options. After moving to Austin, I was afraid I’d never have the opportunity to enjoy quality Ethiopian food, among other hard-to-find international delicacies, ever again. All of that changed, however, when I stumbled upon Aster’s Ethiopian lunch buffet.
Review by Forrest Milburn
Aster’s is a family-owned Ethiopian restaurant situated off of I-35, next to Dean Keeton. I live close by, so I pass by Aster’s every day, and I’d always wanted to give it a try. Although I was apprehensive about spending a good amount of money at a restaurant that didn’t look all that appealing from the outside, I decided to go try the $10 lunch buffet on a Sunday. At least that way, in my mind, I could get my money’s worth.
Little did I know at the time, I would definitely get my money’s worth, along with a whole lot more. I made sure to try all of the main staple foods Aster’s had to offer – Doro Wott, Atakelt Wott, Bedergan and Gomen – and every single dish I tried blew away my expectations; even the tea was fantastic.
On my first plate, I had a good sampling of the Doro Wott, “Ethiopia’s national dish,” according to the restaurant. Doro Wott is a dish featuring slowly-cooked chicken that’s simmered in a spicy sauce (made with a spice natural to Ethiopia, called Berbere), and Aster’s take on it was magnificent: a good amount of spice with a punch of flavor.
Along with the Doro Wott, I had Bedergan and Gomen, featuring seasoned eggplant, tomato sauce and Ethiopian collard greens. The Bedergan (eggplant) was awesome – I love eggplant, but I’ve never tried it in an Ethiopian dish before visiting Aster’s. The eggplant wasn’t spicy at all, but it was packed full of flavor and was clearly slowly and very carefully cooked. The Gomen, however, was a dish that I’ve tried previously, and Aster’s version wasn’t any different; the collard greens were flavorful, but it wasn’t as seasoned as I would’ve liked.
My second plate featured a good sampling of the Atakelt Wott, one of my favorite Ethiopian dishes, in addition to some more Doro Wott and Goman. The Atakelt Wott – made of fresh cabbage, green beans, carrots and onions stewed in a zesty tumeric sauce – was prepared to perfection. The cabbage and other vegetables were soft and tender, and the sauce was well seasoned and buttery. The injera, the crepe-like rolls of bread used as plates and utensils, was plentiful and didn’t taste too much like vinegar.
In addition to the food, the service was outstanding. My tea was always refilled shortly after I asked, and the wait staff was incredibly friendly. Overall, I wouldn’t say that the food was better than my favorite Ethiopian restaurant back in Dallas, but I blame that on my limited exposure to the restaurant’s full array of specialties; I expect that the dinner selections are even tastier. I would definitely recommend trying Aster’s Ethiopian lunch buffet – great food at fair prices; who wouldn’t want that?