Choosing a dish at a restaurant these days has become a high pressure event. After being seated and handed a menu that could easily be mistaken for a short novel, the clock starts ticking. With what seems like only moments to decide what play to make, restaurant goers must hurriedly choose between a main course: will it be fish, white meat, red meat, vegetarian, pasta, or some kind of new, hard to pronounce grain? And if it’s one of those restaurants that offer options for sides, forget it, game over. The server returns and you totally whiff on what to order.
Well, Jazera, a new East African Restaurant on MLK Jr Way S between Holly and Willow, has evened the playing field with a dish referred to by Somalis as “Sport.” Rather than choosing between dishes, you can get them all on one, sharable plate. For just $22.00 a group of three, hardy eaters can feast on chicken shawarma, stewed beef, and king fish accompanied by spiced rice and Somali spaghetti. A more adventurous trio can add roasted goat tibs to their Sport for an additional $3.00. Both options are served with bread and bananas. Follow along, we will explain the bananas.
In addition to serving up a taste of home for Somalis, many of whom immigrated to Seattle when civil war broke out in the 1990s, Jazera prides itself on providing community space. Owner Ahmed Mohamed was very intentional in choosing a location in the heart of the Othello Business district. “We want to see the community,” said Mohamed “and share with the community.”
A cross-cultural draw for many community members, Jazera routinely airs soccer matches. Tables fill in the newly redecorated space to watch line ups from the Champions League, Confederation of African Football, and international tournaments.
Between bites, cheers echo from patrons as their favorite teams score but there is also something else to be celebrated here. As more and more new customers make their way to Jazera, a new dialogue is taking place. Prompted by confused stares as the Sport dish is served to newcomers, or asked directly, owner Ahmed Mohamed, his staff, and fellow Somali patrons are more than happy to answer the question, “What am I supposed to do with this banana?” As Mohamed explains that bananas accompany rice and pasta dishes in traditional Somali cooking, serving as an easy to use utensil for picking up straggling grains on the plate, the barrier between cultures is chipped away and a platform for understanding our neighbors in the Global Village that is Othello.
Whether you enjoy soccer or not, rave reviews for Jazera and its traditional Somali recipes have confirmed that Seattle received a lot of new Sport fans this year.
So come say Hello to Othello and to Jazera!
Hello in Somali: Soo Dhawoow (pronounced: So-Da-Woah)
Check out the full menu online: https://www.yelp.com/biz/jazera-seattle