Siga tibs, buticha, wot, and gomen may not be part of your everyday vocabulary right now, but West Palm Beach's Queen of Sheeba is looking to change that. Down a one-way street in a sleepy residential neighborhood just beyond the hustle and bustle of downtown West Palm Beach, you'll find something unique and unexpected cooking at this Ethiopian restaurant where chef-owner Lojo Washington is dishing out the heavily spiced fare of her homeland. A tiny woman with sparkling eyes, a shy smile, and a soft voice, she is the opposite of the flavors she creates, which are big, bold, and assertively spicy. The restaurant's Queen eight-table dining room is located in the heart of one of the city's historic neighborhoods, a building that looks as though it could be someone's home from the outside, and feels as much on the inside. Here, a small open kitchen and quiet dining room reveal a rustic charm, the space lit by low-hanging chandeliers that cast a soft amber glow over rustic wood tables set with mismatched glassware and vases of wildflowers. You'll feel at home, but the fragrant, spiced air emanating from Washington's stovetop will remind you that you're no longer in South Florida. Instead, you're headed for the streets of Jimma, the large city in Southwest Ethiopia from which she hails. If you're feeling adventurous, the vegetable sampler will allow you to try several dishes at once, served on a long platter with tight rolls of spongy, crepe-like bread made from teff flour and form the basis of Ethiopian cuisine. Eating it is joyously communal; such a presentation gives "sharing plates" a whole new meaning, selections served in heaping piles on a single tray and plopped down at the center of a table without side plates or cutlery. In place of spoons or forks, you'll use injera bread, its rubbery texture is the perfect tool for scooping and scraping the multicolored mounds of spicy stews, curries, and greens in true Ethiopian fashion.
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