Classic Tables: Café Colucci

The Bay Area's finest Ethiopian food

There are dozens of Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurants in the Bay Area, yet Oakland's Café Colucci has always been in a category of its own.

Let's begin with the fundamental, the Ethiopian sourdough flatbread injera. If the injera you've had in the past was off-white or yellow, you've been duped: Café Colucci is one of the few restaurants in the region to use the traditional grain teff in its injera. The result has a deep flavor and a russet hue.

Now that your foundation is set, choose from more than 30 dishes on the fold-out menu. For the simplest option, order the vegetable ($12 at dinner) or meat combination plates ($13 at dinner), replete with a collection of carefully spiced legumes, slow-cooked shredded collards, and chicken, beef or lamb stews.

But we recommend venturing into less familiar territory. In begue alicha fitfit, lamb ($12 at dinner) is swathed in turmeric, ginger and onion and tossed with scraggly chunks of injera. Rich and smooth like hummus, telba fitfit is a robust purée of flaxseeds and tomato.

Then there's the intrepid eater's destination, kitfo. Café Colucci's mammoth portion envelops silky beef tartare speckled with diced jalapeño and swathed in cardamom-laced butter.

Try finding such a nuanced version elsewhere.

Café Colucci, 6427 Telegraph Ave., Oakland; 510-601-7999 or