Keith and I have never had Ethiopian food before and had heard good things about it, so on this cool winter's night we thought it best to venture out to U Street and give it a try. We were escorted upstairs as soon as we stepped inside Etete and our friendly server suggested drinks and appetizers before we even had a chance to look at the menu. Keith decided on the Ethiopian Harar beer while I stuck to water. He found it to be medium bodied and similar to some Caribbean beers he has had before. We were unfamiliar with how each dish would be presented. I had only heard that you eat with your hands, which was becoming more evident by no silverware on the tables and later confirmed as we were only presented with napkins and hand-wipes for our meal's end. Also unknowing the portion sizes, we decided on a few things to sample just in case.
First, as an appetizer we each had a sambusa - a triangular pastry filled with lentils, green pepper, jalapeno, and onion. It arrived piping hot and the filling was very tasty and perfectly balanced in the spice department. A great starter for vegetarians and meat-lovers alike. For our main course, I chose the vegetarian stew of onion, garlic, ginger, carrot, potato, and string beans called Yeataklit Wat. Keith picked the special dish of spicy chicken stew of legs cooked in onion, garlic, ginger, berbere (ground hot pepper), spiced butter sauce known as Doro Wat. It is served with hard boiled eggs. Again, unsure of how much food it would, be we also ordered the Fish. No description as to what kind of fish or how it was prepared, simply listed as "fish" on the menu for $8. We are glad we took this gamble because our stews came out on one big platter for us to share and the portion seemed relatively small.
My vegetarian stew was warm, yet the baby food texture was a bit hard to pick up with my hands even using the injera bread to "grab" at it. The flavors were nice with the sweetness of the carrots accented by the ginger and not overly spicy at all. I did not see any string beans in the mix, as the root vegetables were most prominent. A few other vegetarian items were included on the plate to share. Looking at the middle of the picture above, from left to right, we had a smokey red lentil dip; cooked onions with carrots; and more carrots in a tomato-based sauce. All of them tasted great. The chicken stew dish was a bit disappointing. It was very small, cold, with minimal chicken meat and barely any spice at all. Keith was really looking forward to a whole chicken leg at least, and some traditional heat (both temperature and spice), but alas was left wanting more. The fish was fried whole and served with a lemon wedge. Keith really enjoyed this simple presentation and was happy to peel apart the bones from the fish with his hands. Again, I am not sure what kind of fish it was but the white meat was solid, fresh, and flavorful. It was a nice texture change from all the mushy stew. Overall, I enjoyed my first Ethiopian meal. While messy and not exactly elegant to eat with your hands, it was a different experience and the combination of spices and flavors was pleasurable for even the timid diner. The lentils, potatoes, and carrot bases are satisfying for vegetarians, while the lamb and beef dishes cater to the carnivores. I would definitely be open to trying other Ethiopian dishes again.
Total Rating: 4
Food: 4, Price: 4, Service: 4, Ambience: 3.5, Accessibility: 5
What I ate:
Plus Keith ate:
spicy chicken stew of legs cooked in onion, garlic, ginger,
berbere (ground hot pepper), spiced butter sauce
served with hard boiled eggs