This is certainly one of my family's favorite restaurants. My parents have only been able to go once or twice, while I was living in Ann Arbor, but The Husband and I used to make this a tradition to go for my birthday dinner to the establishment in Ferndale. The food and tea and setting are pretty much the same so just go to the one closest to you! The last few years we replaced the Blue Nile birthday tradition with the Holly Hotel to work into our schedules a little better, so we hadn't been in a few years but we finally talked my brother and sister-in-law into going during their brief visit to Michigan this past weekend. Oh yummy yum yum, it was just as delicious as we remembered!
This kind of cuisine needs a little bit of explanation - Ethiopian food isn't very common for Michiganders and I will admit I had no idea what to expect my first time visiting the Blue Nile when I was in college. First off, it's a really beautiful setting with rich tapestries, bright bold colors, and ethnic decor. The Ferndale location has many purple/blue/magent fabric umbrellas hanging upsidedown from the ceiling. It is a romantic setting and you typically have two options for styles of table - one is a more ethnic choice, either low chairs or normal chairs set around a tall basket. The food is served to you in the basket and everyone in your group leans over to eat from the same tray. Likewise, they have booths which you can also be served in, which might be more comfortable for those who do not like low tables.
What does it taste like? Well I can't really say it's like Indian because The Husband hates Indian but loves Blue Nile... but the style of stewing the meat and lentils seems similar... it's just a different flavor profile than Indian, like nothing we have had before anywhere else.
As far as I am concerned, there are only two options of menu items - Vegetarian or Meat. We always get the meat choice and it is around $19 per person... but before you freak out about spending that much on stewed meat and lentils, it is all-you-can-eat so you won't leave hungry or disappointed. The food is served family style - they bring out a big tray that is lined with their spongey edible "bread" called injera, and they have several bowls of various items to dump onto your injera-covered table. You also get a basket of injera which you use as a utensil to scoop up all of the delicious meat and lentil dishes.
Because we never spend much time looking at the menu, we don't usually learn the ethnic names of the dishes but I was able to do a little research. My all-time favorite "Spicy Beef" and "Spicy Chicken" are Zilzil Wat and Doro Wat... I must find a recipe for these dishes somewhere online. The Husband and I just totally love them. These are the dark red meaty items in the picture above. They also have a mild chicken and lamb dish, and our lamb was a little chewy this time but the chicken was very good.
That's it for the meat dishes and they surround all of those with several vegetable dishes - spicy red lentils (Yemisir Kik Wat), Kik Alecha (split yellow peas), Tekil Gomen (cabbage), Gomen (collard greens), and one of my favorites - Mixed Vegetables (it sounds simple but the potatoes, carrots, etc are totally delicious). There are few more veggie lentil/pea dishes too, and they're all very enjoyable.
I didn't realize this before but the website says that Ethiopian food is extremely healthy and has very little added fat, etc to their foods. I guess it is pretty healthy but - I usually eat waaaay too much here so I associate it with being incredibly full! I also always insist on getting the Ethiopian Tea which is basically cinnamon flavored but it is naturally sweetened with orange and lemon peel and I just love its spiciness and sweetness.
Anyway, if you are an adventurous diner and looking for a unique restaurant - something totally out of the ordinary - that's delicious, healthy and fun... then try the Blue Nile! It is one of our favorites and continues to be a family favorite, so I hope they stick around in Michigan.
The Blue Nile
545 West Nine Mile Rd
Blue Nile Website