Zeni: Ethiopian Food in San Jose

It is a pretty good sign when you arrive on a Friday night at a restaurant and there is a bit of a wait.  We waited for maybe twenty minutes as lots of other folks piled in to try and get their name on the list for a table and it just kept getting more and more crowded.

Zeni Ethiopian Restaurant is on Saratoga Avenue, the street with many great diverse restaurants in the San Jose area (along with of course our favorite, Halu Ramen).  There are still so many others for us to try from Persian to Japanese and African.

On the Friday night we dined, we sat on stools with a big round bowl table in front of us as we listened to a live musician play the keyboard as some little kids bounced around to the music.

The bill was very inexpensive for the four of us with plenty of food and wine (I think it was $35 each couple).

For a table of 4, Order (non-vegetarian):

  • Bottle of TEJ Organic Ethiopian Honey Wine
  • Tell the waitress to pick for you with a combination of veggie and meat dishes, you won’t be sorry- we liked the lamb and chicken dishes as well as all of the veggie dishes too

All Entrees are served with Injera, the unleavened bread prepared today as it was a thousand years ago and Zeni’s house salad (Injera also eaten in Somalia and Yemen). Injera is like a giant savory, spongy pancake that is laid out in front in a huge dish for communal eating. The salad is placed in the middle with all of your meat and veggie dishes along the sides also on top of the Injeri (see photos above).  Then you get an additional stack of Injera to use to scoop up the dishes and eat them with your hands.

Go with close friends or your honey, as this may be a bit of an awkward business lunch or dinner with people who don’t understand what double dipping is (just take one portion of Injera, enough for one scoop of food and eat that – can tear the Injera to get just the right size)!  That is of course coming from my own cultural context and I actually don’t know the custom for this in Ethiopia. I will have to find that one out!

Zeni Ethiopian Restaurant

1320 Saratoga Ave
San Jose, CA 95129

(408) 615-8282


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