Zagol of Reno – Tastes of Ethiopia
Last week I took my mother to lunch in the city, at Reno’s very first, and only Ethiopian restaurant, Zagol. If you are planning a visit to Reno, or have friends who are, you must schedule a stop (or ten!) at Zagol.
As you walk in, you immediately know that you are in a special place, prepared just for you, by very special people. You are a guest of honor, and from the moment your eyes adjust to the interior, you feel right away, the power of the Ethiopian people, their culture, and the impact they have had on the world. You may think you are there, just for lunch, or dinner, but what you get is an experience that will change your heart for all time.
The interior is decorated in traditional, warm colors of the earth, and you cannot help but notice the scarves that adorn the tables. They declare, without embarrassment, “The Lion of Judah!” My eyes misted over when I saw the framed photograph of the Emperor’s palace and I knew that His Imperial Majesty, Haile Salassie would be so proud of these women and their hard work.
There is a stage, and it is clearly the “throne seat” reserved for Someone. It is furnished with the traditional tables and stools of Ethiopia, the land of kings, and indeed the Lion of Judah. I felt like He just might walk in at any second.
For our lunch, we chose the Abesha Salata and the Bozena Shiro and Gored Gored. It was served, traditional style, on the injerah (flatbread) which means you eat communally with your hands. This was how human beings were meant to eat. When people share, they become gentler with each other. When everything is “mine” or “yours”, the lines of war are clearly drawn, even over a lunch table. World leaders should not be allowed to “go to lunch”, unless it’s to an Ethiopian restaurant.
The dishes were exquisitely prepared, and the beef was so tender, it fell apart when we just looked at it. The Gored Gored is a little spicier, and so required a little more injerah for me, but the salata was so fantastically fresh, that it “fed” the spices in the entree in a way that doesn’t happen very often. Bozena Shiro is a cubed beef dish that is mild and yet somehow sweet, through the spices. You can taste the beef as a delicacy and not as “meat”. Suddenly, you’re eating something special and not just “beef”. It tastes like it belongs in a palace, and perhaps you are not quite good enough for it.
Injera is a gluten free flat bread, and it is so airy, so light, you don’t realize how much you eat. My mother and I polished off a whole bowl and our lovely server raced off to get another, smiling the whole way. And that’s another thing you notice: the people at Zagol really care about YOU. They know you’re going to spend money, but their genuine concern is for YOU as a human being, and YOUR comfort is more important to them. You can feel that and though the world may be full of cynics, Zagol might just make believers in humanity out of them.
As always, Ethiopian coffee is the finest in the world, and the ladies of Zagol serve it elegantly and beautifully. They do have the traditional coffee ceremony and nothing makes it more complete than Zagol’s home-made, handcrafted baklava. I think they use real homemade almond spice and almond marzipan!
I gave the owner a packet of my Beloved Bob Marley incense. I hope she did not think it was anything other than a gift to a beautiful lady, as extra gratitude (on top of a big tip of course.) for a beautiful afternoon.
An incredible experience and one that I can’t wait to have again, and again, and again. I will have to list all my friends and take them there in turns. That should fill up at least the next two weeks of lunches. 😉