I've been known to complain about Ethiopian food before, claiming all its little piles of colors end up tasting the same in the end, using many similar spices throughout the palate of meat and vegetable dishes. At Queen of Sheba, the city's finest example, my gripes bear little resemblance to the reality.
At first glance, the restaurant is similar to others in town, darkly lit with homages to the home country and a quiet atmosphere. Sheba has a full bar and even a couple Ethiopian beers if the mood strikes you. If you have a group and the chance to sit in the back left of the restaurant, jump at the opportunity. The seating might not be comfortable, per se, but everyone gathered around the traditional basket and eating from the center feels very good. This is not a cuisine to be reserved about eating, so everyone just needs to dig in and get their hands dirty.
The basic component of an Ethiopian meal is the bread, injera, a large flat sourdough. Injera is not for everyone's taste, but I have always enjoyed it even when the rest of the meal has left me wanting. The bread here (below) is of top quality, light and soft, almost feeling like a warm blanket you could pull over yourself.
The trick here is eating with the bread to grab mouthfuls, figuring out what size bread and what quantity of food make a safe scoop. There is a science to making sure none of it falls or gets all over your face and hands, but that is part of the fun.
I have never been to an Ethiopian restaurant and not ordered some kind of sample platter. This meal was no exception, and the dark ilegible photo you see below is a combination of both the Taste of Sheba combination sampler ($19.95) and Sheba vegetarian sampler ($15). Four of us split this and were plenty full, as the food lasts as far as you want it with an unlimited supply of injera.
I noticed on the menu that the place also has $10.50-$12 lunch specials, which would be a great option for anyone nearby in Hell's Kitchen.
650 10th Avenue, New York NY