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Restaurant Reviews 

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Zemam's provides unique dining experience

Zemam's, the quaint little midtown joint offering up Ethiopian cuisine, is apparently where some of the hipper people in Tucson are venturing to be seen these days. A recent visit found a dizzying array of them, conversing intently, gazing into each others eyes, and slopping home helpings of Yetakelt Wat, Shiro, and Zigni. Frustrated writers with cool hair, biker chicks, visiting intelligencia, sexy foreigners, Weekly readers, unfortunate blow hards, public defenders, entertaining academicians, leather panters, sullen loners, ethnic puzzlers, and vegan artisans clustered as only the hip can in this aromatic, refurbished house in central Tucson. Despite the close proximity of above, the somewhat oppressive lighting and conversationally challenging acoustics that accompanied the grub, Zemam's seemed like a pretty alright place. 

A couple things helpful to know before attempting to broaden your horizons at the Broadway locale. First and foremost, don't scratch yourself extensively or help tick dip your buddy's hound just prior to arrival as you will be expected to eat with your hands. Those not accustomed to keeping at least one mitt perpetually clean for this purpose would be well served to visit the washroom prior to grabbing a chair. Secondly, those hoping to plop down and drink a cold one Ethiopian style before supping will be disappointed as Zemam's currently has no liquor license. Luckily, importing one's own spirits is encouraged and copious amounts of a hearty cab/merlot and petite syrah that someone in our group had the foresight to have in their rucksack ended up greatly complimenting a flavorful meal already pungent with exotic spices. 

Vegetarians have plenty to chose from here and the service is friendly and non interruptive. The menu is easy to understand and numbered so placing an order for the "One, Seven, and Twelve sampler" allows one to avoid spraying spittle in attempt to pronounce some of the more challenging dishes. Such a sampler platter which ends up delivering three separate glops of anything on the menu (except the Yebeg Wat which is assumedly not included as a choice due to an expensive lamb content but worth ordering alone if you can afford it) is the obvious way to go for the unfamiliar. Portions come family style dolloped on injera, a big spongy tortilla like crepy thing stretched on a pizza pan, and it is expected that you will pinch at the mixtures of lentils, curry, spinach, yams, chicken, chick peas, lamb and beef and get them to the mouth with ripped portions of same. A side plate of this folded injera, which on it's own is uniquely pleasing and somewhat crumpet like in texture and taste, is provided and goes a long way towards rendering the meal, which at first appears somewhat lean, to be quite filling. Of the ten concoctions placed in the middle of our table for all to try, each was tasty and succulent in it's own way. 

Though rather spartanly decored, there are just enough hangings, posters, carvings, heads, and nick knacks placed about to gaze at during lulls in the conversation if the surrounding hipsters aren't sufficient to amuse. The meals are reasonably priced with the BYOB policy greatly easing the arrival of the bill and leaving fat and sassy (and most likely pleasingly flatulent) for around ten dollars a head is quite possible. 

Zemam's is located at 2731 E. Broadway, on the North side of the street. Their phone number is 323-9928


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