Eritrean at Fluid
Hi - just had a fun dining experience at a fundraiser at a little club called Fluid (I think) at 1524 U Street NW (b/w 15-16th Street).
Fluid is an interesting retro bar/lounge w/ cool 50/60s tables with chrome on the side and those silly 60s fiberglass flaired chairs - they also have a red pool room with chrome hubcaps on the wall. Almost as an afterthought they happen to have a kitchen cooking Eritrean. As they told me, it's like Ethiopian only better. The food has nothing in common with the decor and at least on this night, the crowd except for a trio of regulars hanging out at one end of the Bar.
I tried the chicken zil zil and the tibisi (lean meat). The injera (bread upon which the communal food is served) was nice and spongy and fairly warm. The sauces were particularly good, very strong, spicy and hot. Eventually the spices were hot enough that I had to eat only Injera for about 5 minutes. The side of spinach and lentils was great. I'd say that they at least rivaled Meskerem and she gave me a break on the price - only $17 for a meal that served three (plus two others who had a small snack), basically she didn't charge me for the spinach/lentil sides. The entre's are $8 or $9 each. Coronas were $4 apiece. If you're out on U, it's worth checking out.
Oh yeah, they don't actually have a sign for "Fluid" out front. In fact I think that they have an old sign for another club. So go to 1524 and go downstairs to the basement (not up) and ask for the Eritrean menu and have fun!
Hi Cap - Eric Brace actually mentioned this place in his column in the Weekend section of the Post today. It caught my eye, firstly because I hadn't heard of Eritrean food (or Eritrea, for that matter). A Google search answered that for me, and you've answered the other questions -- "is it like Ethiopian?" and "is the food good?" (the article focuses on the club part of the business).
The article says it used to be called "Selam" before they added the nightclub to the existing restaurant and changed the name to "Fluid."
Can't wait to try it!
From my experience, I don't think Eritrean and Ethiopian food differ a lot. Of course, this applies to the major-city food we all equate with these countries. Who knows how many variations are out in the rural areas?
I have a couple of Ethiopian cookbooks and one Eritrean cookbook. (One of my Eritrean friends laughs at the thought of recipes for these dishes; she says you just cook it.) I don't have these in front of me, but I recall that the Eritrean cookbook emphasizes seafood more, which makes sense, since Ethiopia is landlocked while Eritrea is on the Red Sea.
Also, I believe Eritrean food has more Italian influence, which again makes sense, since it was an Italian colony. Ethiopia also shows influence to a lesser degree. Of course, the Italians forced their way into Ethiopia around the time of WW II, and Ethiopia has a history of dealing with the Italians that goes back at least to the 19th century. It's easy to find a bowl of spaghetti in Addis Ababa; the same goes for pizza, and it looks to me like the coffee service in the city's restaurants is definitely Italian-style.
But the native-derived cuisine of the two countries, as far as I can tell, is similar.
I am not an expert on these foods; these ar merely my observations, and I'll happily listen to those who know more about it.
BTW, I swear I posted a similar message a few minutes ago, but I didn't see it when I looked, hence this second post. Please forgive me if my other message suddenly materializes!
re: Geoff Laredo
I checked out Selam/Fluid a few days ago, and while it was very muggy outside, it was comfortable in the restaurant/lounge. It was still early and the place wasn't too crowded, so that might have helped things.
They were out of a few menu items that we asked for like the tibsi and shuro, so our server basically gave us what they had--great spinach and fairly spicy chicken and lamb. The beef (not tibsi, apparently) was extremely tough and did not go over very well.
This is definitely a very inexpensive place! The four of us each had two drinks and A LOT of food, and the tab came to a little over $50. Thanks to Cap Hill for the recommendation.