Messob - good Ethiopian on Piedmont
I've been meaning to eat here ever since the day I walked by and smelled injera cooking... finally made it this weekend.
It's by far the most brightly lit Ethiopian restaurant either I or any of my dining companions have ever been to. It kind of feels like the inside of a Subway sandwich shop. That said, the waitstaff are very warm and friendly, and the food is very good. Not earth-shaking, genre-defining good (that distinction goes to Zeni in San Jose, for me), but I-plan-to-become-a-regular good.
The injera is thinner than in most places, and a little more sour than I like. We had kitfo (nicely spicy), lamb tibs (ordered rare, but the pieces are so small that by the time all the sides brown, they're pretty done - still tasted good, though), doro wat (sauce was less oniony than my ideal), a potato and cabbage dish (tasty, didn't stand out one way or another for me), red lentils (delicious, but maybe a little less buttery than my ideal), and collard greens (also good).
In general, the food was less oily than most Ethiopian places I've been to, which overall is a very good thing - I just like super-buttery lentils.
With a couple of beers, tax and tip, cost was $16pp.
On a repeat visit last weekend, Messob was actually better than the first time (that never happens!) Maybe because I was coming off an incredibly gluttonous week, but this time, I really appreciated that the red lentils weren't excessively buttery. A ramekin of fresh cheese (not offered on my first visit) provided a creamy, mild counterpart to the tart greens, and really rounded out the flavors beautifully. Lamb tibs were both more deeply caramelized, and more tender than on the first trip. Kitfo was again excellent. We added chicken tibs this time (really good, and not redundant at all despite the similar spicing to the lamb) and another beef stew (can't remember the name, wasn't my favorite of the night.) Injera was thicker and less sour than before. I'm upgrading Messob to "excellent".
Finally got off my butt and went to Messob tonight. I thought it was quite good. The two of us had the Vegetarian Messob and the Meat Messob, which meant we tried all of the veg menu items and 3 meat (Doro Wot, Sega Wot, and Beg Alicha). Didn't notice the tough meat issue some CHers have mentioned, but all three of our meat dishes were slow cooked. I liked the lamb (Beg Alicha) and found it very tender.
On the inevitable Cafe Colucci v. Messob question, I think both have a lot to recommend them. The food at Messob seems lighter overall...less oily, and with a lighter hand in spicing. Flavors were cleaner and more discreet/separate than at Cafe Colucci. This is not, however, a knock on Cafe Colucci in any way. Those who lean towards richer foods with more intense flavor will probably prefer Cafe Colucci (I think I'm in this camp, but I'll have to eat at Messob a few more times to be sure). Regardless, I enjoy both.
I just heard an uphill alert from a friend who lives a few blocks away and had not been at all impressed with the food when they first opened.