Our friend Percy invited us for dinner at his favorite Ethiopian restaurant, Addis, on a Saturday night in July 2004. Unfortunately when we got there we found Addis closed for a private reception. Determined to have Ethiopian nonetheless, and in the right neighborhood for it, we ventured on in search of another choice. None of us had been to Ethiopia Restaurant before, and we all figured it was worth a try. It was.
The small restaurant is not as pleasant as others of its kind. While the walls of its dining room are decorated with Ethiopian art, the main effect here is created by the cheap vinyl banquettes and chairs and the glass-top tables. It's a pity because by investing in some better chairs and tables the management could make this place be quite inviting.
The menu is standard Ethiopian, with plenty of vegetarian and meat choices. We tend to like combos, so we get to try a little bit of everything, but here there was only one meat combo to try (t'ibs, zilzir t'ibs and doro wet, $11). We decided on one combo, a serving of yedoro t'ibs ($10) and one of alicha fitfit ($9.50). I'm not very clear what happened, I think the waitress might have vetoed the idea of the fitfit and recommended t'ibs wet instead, but in any case we didn't get it.
We started with samboussas, deep-fried pastries filled with seasoned ground beef ($5.50 for three). They were good, though not exceptional. I found the filling a little bit dry and I think I would have liked them better with some type of sauce.
The actual food is served family style with a twist. The waitress brought a large platter covered with injera and splashed with a couple of veggie purees (garbanzo beans and lentils?). The meat dishes came in individual bowls which she then poured onto the platter. There weren't any more accompaniments for the food. Other Ethiopian restaurants serve a simple salad and sour cream and we missed them here.
The injera bread came rolled into tight cylinders. I didn't like this injera, I found it way too sour, it had almost a vinegar-like taste to it. Percy and Mike didn't mind it though.
The food ranged from okay to very good. I'm still not sure what was what, so I can't recommend specific dishes. The yedoro t'ibs weren't like anything I'd tasted before, also a little vinegary, but they were quite good. Percy thought they were undercooked but Mike liked them that way. They both agree that the other meat dish was overcooked and dry. One of the stews of the meat combination (it might have been the zilzil t'ibs) was simply great. None of the dishes were particularly spicy, so no sour cream was needed. Though I liked the food, I like the food at the Blue Nile and Cafe Colucci better.
The portions were adequate, perhaps a little on the small side as everything was gone from the plate by the time we were done. Ethiopia restaurant offers a couple of beers, a few wines (here is your chance to try cheap South African and Moroccan wine), honey wine and a few juices. No shakes, however. I had a mango juice which was small and too sweet.
Service was good. The waitress brought lots of paper and boxes with crayons and pens for our daughter to play with, which we really appreciated. As the restaurant was half empty, Mika was able to roam around our table without bothering anyone. There were other kids in the place, so this is not a bad place to come with toddlers.
Alas, I'm not sure I would go back. Sitting next to us that evening there was a young couple who had a coupon for dinner. The coupon had a June expiration date, but it had been cut out of a July Guardian newspaper, which they had with them. I don't know whether it was a printer error or a bait-and-switch deal, but in any case the manager refused to honor the coupon. Even though it didn't happen to us, it bothers me enough that on that basis alone I can't imagine going back. Of course, the fact that the food wasn't outstanding doesn't hurt either.
2955 Telegraph Ave.