Blue Nile vs. Fasika: Sampler platter showdown

There's something about eating with your hands that's incredibly satisfying. Sure, it can be messy, but that's all part of the fun, especially when it comes to Ethiopian food. We rolled up our sleeves and dug into the sampler platters at Minneapolis's Blue Nile and St. Paul's Fasika to see who serves it best.

Blue Nile The Blue Nile's Gosa Gosa C ($23.25) allegedly feeds two people, but what arrives could easily serve three reasonably hungry adults. Served on a platter nearly the size of a two-top table, the sampler includes four vegetarian selections, six meat selections, and two sauces (one a spicy mix tasting of cardamom and cayenne, the other a tangy yogurt dip). Also included are individual baskets of injera, the spongy, sour Ethiopian flat bread used to scoop up the meat and vegetables.

While the meat selections, including chicken, beef, and lamb, were all flavorful and richly doused with spicy berbere sauce, we found the vegetarian dishes to be more misses than hits. We liked the savory, moderately spiced, and perfectly cooked cabbage dish best, but found both lentil dishes bland and undercooked, giving little hint of spice or seasoning while almost crunching between our teeth. Meanwhile, the split pea dish was both bland and chalky, leaving a dusty, unpleasant taste. All in all, the platter was filling, but not entirely noteworthy.

Dig in at the Blue Nile
Dig in at the Blue Nile
Danielle Lenz

Fasika Order Fasika's Ultimate Combination ($36.50) with plenty of friends, because the thing is fucking huge. Though the menu says it feeds two to three people, this monster could easily serve four or five. The 15 dishes include beef, lamb, chicken, and vegetarian selections--enough food so that you'll need to request extra injera, though you'll probably still find yourself polishing off the sauce-soaked piece on the platter. We loved the deliciously savory beef with onions, the stewed collard greens, and the soft and tangy white cheese. There's also a simple green salad, for when you need a break from the meaty, spicy richness.

It's gonna be messy, but you're gonna love it.
It's gonna be messy, but you're gonna love it.
Danielle Lenz

The winner: We heartily recommend Fasika's gigantic, delicious sampler platter. Although the Blue Nile's smaller platter was notably less expensive, the bland split peas and undercooked lentils were unappetizing enough for us to forgo finishing them. Head to Fasika for the Ultimate Combination the next time you and a group are craving Ethiopian food. You'll leave with berbere sauce under your fingernails and a smile on your face.

BLUE NILE 2027 Franklin Ave. E., Minneapolis 612.338.3000; website

FASIKA 510 Snelling Ave. N., St. Paul 651.646.4747; website

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