Critic's star breakdown
- Food: 4
- Service: 3.5
- Atmosphere: 3.5
- Overall: 4
When I first heard about an Ethiopian-food restaurant opening in Knoxville, I was excited. It had been quite a while since I could say I had tried a new ethnic cuisine for the first time. Gosh opened its doors earlier this month, and a friend helped me break in this new eatery — which currently sits sans signage adjacent to the Holy Land Market on Sutherland — on a recent lunch visit.
The interior is simply but pleasantly decorated, with window treatments and white linens that lend a slightly upscale flavor to the otherwise minimalist setting. One wall features an array of pencil drawings that are one of the few touches of African-themed decor to be found in the single dining space.
One of the first things the uninitiated need to know about Ethiopian cuisine is that it is traditionally served without silverware. Meals are accompanied by injera, a light, spongy bread that almost has a rubbery heft to it when you handle it. However, injera is delicious, whether consumed on its own or — as you will soon discover the necessity for — as a utensil for grabbing/scooping your main course.
Several appetizers are available to get your meal started. Timatim Fit Fit features injera tossed in a blend of fresh tomatoes, green peppers, garlic and house dressing. There are also meat and vegetarian sambbussas, which are stuffed, deep-fried pastry shells. My friend and I started off with a veggie sambbussa ($4.99) filled with lentils, fresh garlic, jalapeno, onions and herbs.
It reminded me of a traditional Middle Eastern pastry pie, and this one really got us revved up from the get-go with its vibrant flavor palette and warm, savory goodness.
On paper, the main dishes reminded me of Indian cuisine. The commonalities are meat and/or veggies mixed into a stew-like base, except with Ethiopian, injera is the common denominator instead of rice. And while both cuisines seem to rely heavily on unique spices — onions and garlic in the case of Ethiopian — the flavors are distinctively different overall.
Yebeg alicha is made with tender lamb, and doro wot is chicken legs sautéed in seasoned butter and stewed in a berbere (pepper) sauce. There are several vegetarian and beef dishes available, including kay wot (lean chopped beef simmered in pepper sauce), kik alicha (slightly pureed yellow split peas), gomen (chopped collard greens cooked in a mild sauce) and kitfo (extra lean beef seasoned with hot chili pepper and served raw or lightly cooked).
I decided to try the meat combination platter ($12.99) featuring the yedoro wot (chicken) as well as yesega wot and yesega alicha (two beef dishes with different levels of spiciness). My friend went veggie on me by getting the popular yemisir wot ($7.99) —lentils cooked in a flavorful berbere sauce and spice blend.
The combo was delivered on a metal platter approximately two feet in diameter, with a bottom layer of injera and the three meat selections dished out on top in separate piles. We had the yemisir wot added to the platter at our table, and we were given four additional rolls of injera in a basket.
It took us a while for us to develop our respective strategies for getting the stewy selections from the platter to our mouths using the flimsy spongy bread, but anyone who has managed to survive an evening at Dixie Stampede shouldn’t find Gosh to be too much of a challenge. We both got messy, went through a lot of pop-up napkins from the tabletop dispenser and enjoyed every bite of it.
By meal’s end, we were absolutely stuffed with uniquely seasoned and slow-cooked meats and vegetables and that awesome injera. It’s an experience I won’t forget and one that I definitely recommend, by gosh.