They say the best way to know someone is to break bread with them.
If you want to truly connect, then you need to tear strips of injera together.
The east African sour-dough flatbread actually looks like a spongy pancake, and forms the ideal base to soak up all kinds of rich curries.
At Taste of Ethiopia, the injera is some of the best I have come across – and that includes my travels in Washington, DC and Stockholm, which is known for having some of the best Ethiopian cuisines outside of the ancient African country itself.
The small restaurant is located in a nook adjacent to the Russian Embassy in Al Zahiyah (former Tourist Club), directly opposite the Russian Kitchen House Cafeteria.
It has been open for less than a year and is full of charm. The decor is kitschy: the green walls are garish and the chequered linoleum floor looks like a chess board.
Ethiopian art and historical images hang on the wall: proud images of the late emperor Haile Selassie, the lush vistas of the mountain city of Gondor and even a board illustrating the Ethiopian language (albeit with no English translation).
The simplicity engages rather than raises alarms. The same approach is adopted for the food. Taste of Ethiopia does not have the most expansive menu, but whatever is available here is done well.
If you are reserved in the way you dine, then this place might not be for you.
The food is meant to be shared and so is served in one large pan. The way it works is that you order your curries, which all come served on top of the injera. Indeed, the ceremonious way the food is served alone is worth a visit to an Ethiopian restaurant.
The plate with injera is first set down, followed by the judicious spreading of all the curries to ensure everyone gets an equal share of the riches. This is a moment that never ceases to illicit a hushed appreciation.
Curries are spread over a large plate of injera at Taste of Ethiopia in Abu Dhabi. Video by Saeed Saeed
Since our group of four included one child, we opted for a more accessible selection rather than spice-filled dishes.
The Yebeg Tibs is a hearty stew – essentially an Ethiopian curry, with strips of lamb and onions sautéed in a mild buttery sauce.
For the more health conscious, the goman with lamb is ideal.
It is basically sautéed collard greens and onions that can be enjoyed even without the injera.
A favourite is the shiro, a chickpea curry that is decadently rich. It was so good that at one stage I ditched the injera and had a spoonful – I paid for that indulgence later with some mild heartburn.
Taste of Ethiopia might be small and nondescript, but the quality on offer dwarfs its cosy set-up. Go with a few friends and a hearty appetite.
• Our meal for four, including tea, at Taste of Ethiopia, Khalifa Bin Zayed The First St, Abu Dhabi, cost Dh155. To book, call 02 666 4014. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and conducted incognito.