As someone who has never eaten at an Ethiopian restaurant (insert politically incorrect joke about Ethiopians not actually being able to eat here), I decided to have my first time in style on a date night with the girlfriend. In the terribly trafficked part of Fairfax called Little Ethiopia, I found the perfect place, called Meals By Genet. This upscale Ethiopian joint would be my first dive into that crazy finger food so I hoped it would set me on a good path.
We were greeted by an incredibly passionate waitress as soon as we took our seats. Although clearly not Ethiopian, she really knew what she was talking about. She recommended a beer for me called Hakim Stout, which turned out to be pretty great and didn’t have the nasty coffee-like taste that some stouts tend to have. This was slightly ironic considering coffee is originally from from Ethiopia. See, you learn something new every day!
Now since I didn’t know anything about Ethiopian food, the menu meant nothing to me except when I saw that things were meat. Also, there were really less than ten choices on the menu. Luckily, our esteemed waitress was happy to suggest some things for us. First, she thought we should get the vegetarian combo to line our dish. This sounded crazy to me, but I let her continue. Then she suggested two of their meaty dishes for accompaniment. Now she was speaking my language! The first of these was Hirutye’s Yebegsiga Alitcha, which is some fancy Ethiopian speak meaning lamb stewed in garlic, ginger and other spices. The second was Dorowat, a much easier word meaning spicy chicken stewed in red pepper sauce with Ethiopian butter.
We decided to go with everything that she recommended, including that veggie combo. This was for the girlfriend’s sake. Before anything else, we each got our own injera. Injera is a crazy Ethiopian bread that looks more like a towel than anything else and tastes a whole lot like sourdough. It also has an incredibly unique moist texture, without actually being wet. When she brought out the main course, everything was laying on this injera. The veggie combo actually had some lentils and such that an unvegan could eat, and fortunately none of the real veggies were mixing with the meat. I did the honor of tearing the chicken off of the bones and breaking up the egg that came with it. It was almost like an Ethiopian version of turkey carving.
Then we dug in by picking up little bits and pieces of food with little bits and pieces of injera. It was quite the experience and never got boring. The chicken was delicious, as was the lamb. Although we had been warned, the lamb sure had a lot of bones in it. And not just the big, easy to pick out ones. Every once in a while I swallowed a chunk of bone, which wasn’t so awesome, but more calcium can’t hurt.
Ultimately, the meat was picked clean, while a lot of the veggies remained. The meat was really good and tasted like no other food I have ever had. Meals By Genet was a great way to pop my Ethiopian cherry, and now I look forward to trying other Ethiopian food to see if the gourmet is actually a big difference.