As much as I used to love Abyssinia, it's kind of taken a dive lately. The food is still pretty good, it's just not as amazing as it used to be.
That's why I'm glad I saw Bianca mention Derae on her blog a few days ago. It's a new-ish Ethiopian and Middle Eastern restaurant on Highland, just a little bit south of Park. I was all excited about going yesterday, until I realized that they're closed on Mondays.
When I went for lunch today, my friend John and I were the only people in the restaurant. It's a nice, bright space and it's very clean. The server / owner / cook (at least, I think he was all three) gave us menus and made a few recommendations. Since I trusted his knowledge of the food more than mine, we ordered what he told us to get: fuul, hanid and rice and the special hot tea.
The tea was served with milk, and it tasted a little bit citrusy. The server brought over sugar, which I skipped, but adding it makes the tea taste a lot like really good Chai.
The fuul, which is on the breakfast menu, came out first.
It's a medium spicy stew-like dish made from fava beans, olive oil, onions, jalepenos, paprika and a little bit of cottage cheese. The fuul is meant to be eaten like a dip, so it comes with a basket of the fluffiest, warmest, most delicious basket of wheat bread. (At first, I skipped the dipping in favor of shoveling the bread straight into my mouth. It really is that good.)
When the massive plate of hanid and rice came out, I was glad I brought a friend with me to Derae.
The hanid was a giant plate of rice topped with tender (but kind of gamy) pieces of goat meat and a mild meat sauce (in the foreground of the picture). There was a little bowl of spicy green sauce on the side for dipping. It was very good and super filling. Even with two of us, we wound up with a to-go box.
I'll definitely be back – Derae has picked up where my once-beloved Abyssinia left off, albeit a little differently. The quality of the food was great, the service was very friendly, and the price – $21 for two of us (fuul, hanid and rice, two teas, two bottles of water) – was great.
Derae Restaurant is open Tuesday – Sunday from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. They accept most credit cards (but not AmEx) and they're definitely vegetarian friendly.
923 S. Highland
Memphis, Tenn. 38111