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Ethiopian Food

nbermas Mar 30, 2007 03:04 PM

Where to get it and what dishes do you suggest and why?

  1. oolah Mar 30, 2007 03:17 PM

    Here's a good thread that came up recently. It's not showing up in the search for some reason.

    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/382288

    1. Bugsey34 Mar 31, 2007 12:38 PM

      I just walked by a place on 3rd St. right near Ave. B. Have never been there, but just noticed it while in the neighborhood...

      10 Replies
      1. re: Bugsey34
        Brian S Mar 31, 2007 01:57 PM

        Meskel http://www.chowhound.com/topics/321329

        1. re: Brian S
          Bob Martinez Apr 1, 2007 03:28 PM

          I really wantred to like Meskel but they don't make it easy. We ordered a starter that was acceptable. Some type of dumpling thing filled with meat. (Does every culture have a version of this?) Not bad at all but nothing remarkable.

          Then we ordered an assortment of meat dishes - stewy things meant to be ladled into flat bread wrappers, folded up and eaten with your hands. Sounds like a decent idea but in practice it didn't work. The meats were bland in the extreme and woefully underspiced. The bread wrappers were one of the wost things I've ever had - they seemed to have been stored in the refrigerator and were served slightly damp. The net effect was like touching a corpse. The taste wasn't much better - sort of mealy and sour without any pleasant flavor at all. I assume that the bread is "authentic" - well, this is positive proof that authenticity is no guarantee that something is good.

          The combination of drippy meat and flat bread made for a sloppy meal. We managed it but the people at the table next to us were having a really hard time. They requested tableware but were told none was available. It was sort of sad to watch them trying to cut those messy meat wraps with serving spoons.

          We had done some research and found that Meskel is BYO. We brought a bottle of wine with us and throughout the meal people kept coming to the table asking where we got it. (There are few liquor stores in the immediate neighborhood.) I'll tell you this - if Meskel gave away *free* bottles of wine I wouldn't go back to eat that food. Corpse wrappers. [Shudder.]

          Meskel fills a niche by serving dirt cheap ethnic food to students and adults looking for a little adventure. The problem is that the food is downright unpleasant. If you're looking for the cheap ethnic experience with *good* food you should go to the Caracas Arepa Bar.

          1. re: Bob Martinez
            e
            emma Apr 2, 2007 07:38 AM

            perhaps you're simply not a fan of ethiopian food? the injera has been that texture and had that taste everywhere i've had ethiopian.

            1. re: emma
              Bob Martinez Apr 2, 2007 07:41 AM

              Corpse bread. I guess it was "authentically" bad.

              1. re: Bob Martinez
                Steve R Apr 2, 2007 08:01 AM

                Not exactly sure how your time stamp on the above message reads 4 hours in the future but, knowing you, I figure you're just ahead of your time. At any rate, you are describing injera accurately and Ginny hates the stuff as well. Too clammy and spongy for her.

                As for the meat, I think you got the gringo treatment. I've found it to be pretty much as likely as with other ethnic restaurants; they assume you dont want spicy unless you convince them otherwise. My own experience is that Ethiopian food can be very spicy.

                1. re: Steve R
                  Bob Martinez Apr 2, 2007 09:31 AM

                  This stuff was just godawful. The worst meal I've had in the last 12 months. I hear what you're saying about the "gringo treatment" - it occasionally happens to me at Szechuan places but in those cases I get served something that's a well made dish without wildly strong spicing. You can tell something is missing but what remains is still pretty good. In the case of Meskel, however, it was the very definition of bland. Not just toned down, b-l-a-n-d. They left out the *salt* because "gringos" don't like it???

                  BTW, I had a solid B+ meal at Chinese Mirch on Saturday night. You never have to worry about them not serving you the real stuff there.

                  1. re: Bob Martinez
                    a_and_w Apr 4, 2007 10:15 AM

                    Interestingly, "too salty" is a common gringo complaint at Ethiopian places...

                    Corpse bread -- LOL!

                2. re: Bob Martinez
                  gina Apr 6, 2007 07:55 PM

                  It sounds like Meskel is just bad on its own! Truly good Ethiopian food has lots of wonderful spices, some of them hot-spicy, like the Wot dishes. And the injera shouldn't be cold and clammy like that, it ought to be fluffy (thin is nice, too) and at least room temperature.

                  Also, it's much easier to eat if you tear off a small-ish piece of injera and use it to pinch a bit of the food that's been ladled onto the large, injera-covered plate, then put in your mouth directly--no folding required.

              2. re: Bob Martinez
                ballulah Apr 2, 2007 07:59 AM

                I love injera bread! It IS spongy and sour and damp, but it's delicious. It's like a thick crepe made with a sourdough. So good!

                1. re: ballulah
                  prunefeet Apr 12, 2007 09:03 AM

                  Me too. And you are not supposed to wrap the stew in the bread, you are supposed to tear off a piece and use the bread to sort of grab a morsel and then the whole thing goes into your mouth. But if you didn't like the injera, you are out of luck, it's eaten with everything. Also, I agree with someone else (Steve maybe) that ethiopian can be very spicy, odd that you found it bland.

          2. g
            gtrekker2003 Mar 31, 2007 03:42 PM

            Has anybody tried Massawa on Amsterdam and W. 121st? Any good? Passed by it the other day.

            3 Replies
            1. re: gtrekker2003
              ballulah Apr 2, 2007 07:57 AM

              Massawa has been there longer than most other Ethiopian restaurants that are currently open in NY, so it has longevity going for it. The food there isn't bad, but I don't think it's great either. They get the spice right, at least, the food is fiery hot. In short, I wouldn't go out of my way to go there, but if I lived in the area (and I used to), or happened to BE in the area, and craved Ethiopian I'd gladly stop in.

              1. re: ballulah
                m
                mary shaposhnik Apr 2, 2007 05:36 PM

                The one thing I used to like about Massawa better than many other Ethiopian places (there used to be another one right nearby--Zular or something) was that it was Eritrean, and had an excellent ful (or foul) dish, which most places did not have. But this was a LONG time ago, so I don't know how it has fared.

                Last time I went to Meskerem, on 47th, it was really, really underspiced and bland, a dramatic departure from the past. It made me not want to go back.

                1. re: mary shaposhnik
                  ballulah Apr 3, 2007 08:05 AM

                  Zula was the the place a block up from Massawa. I loved that place! I was sad when I realized it was gone. It's funny, Todd English was "doing" bread on his Food Trip program last night, and they stopped at Meskerem to get an injera lesson. My mother was with me and remembered her one and only experience in an Ethiopian restaurant...which was Massawa about 12 years ago! She sat straight up and said, "God, all I remember was pulling bones out of the food!" Funny what sticks in your memory.

            2. j
              jesuki1 Apr 1, 2007 02:29 PM

              I like Ghenet, in Soho. I always get the (meat) combination platter. Order for 1 person less than you have in your group (if you have 3, order the combo for 2). There's always plenty of food, and the injera is filling!

              I also like Meskerem, but somehow I always end up at Ghenet. :) Did see some posts about the service, and it is a bit slow, so don't go if you're in any kind of rush.

              1 Reply
              1. re: jesuki1
                j
                jeanki Apr 2, 2007 10:09 AM

                Ghenet is the most 'westernized' of the bunch but I also find it the most bland. I like Awash on the UWS and Ethiopian Restaurant on UES.

              2. jakew8 Apr 2, 2007 10:36 AM

                Nobody has even mentioned Queen of Sheba which, according to many on this board, has the best bread. And it's cheap. 44th and 10th if you're in the neighborhood.

                4 Replies
                1. re: jakew8
                  JungMann Apr 2, 2007 11:02 AM

                  Queen of Sheba is indeed a lot cheaper than some of the other Ethiopian restaurants I've been to (especially Meskerem). I never quite understood how a country so notorious for malnutrition could send its expats here to charge $20 for a serving of lentil gruel.

                  That said, I love said lentils as well as the collard greens. I always try to get my dinner companions to try kitfo (steak tartare) which although quite simple, tastes fantastic washed down with a little honey wine. Alas not too many "gringos" are willing to try "Raw ethiopian mincemeat." Tibs wat is also a good choice. I would avoid any of the chicken curries with egg. Chances are you will get one tired drumstick and a sad hard boiled egg.

                  1. re: JungMann
                    ballulah Apr 2, 2007 11:20 AM

                    Agreed JungMann, I usually avoid chicken dishes when I'm at an Ethiopian restaurant. I just re-read the OP and realized none of us had been offering menu guidance! I like the crispy injera (kategna?) appetizer, it's a bit like a sour pappadum. I like kitfo as well, but only if I'm just going to give it a few tastes to share. I would rather seer my tastebuds with siga wett (beef stew, the sauce is almost black with spices and fiery hot).

                    Also, a quick warning to the OP, if you do not like your meat on the bone, be careful where you go. I love Ethiopian, but I hate meat on the bone, and I don't like finding bits of bone in my food. In a more "westernized" restaurant they can be more mindful of this, and they'll often use more expensive cuts of meat. One of the things I hate about Massawa is that inevitably I'll be sucking bones out of my food. Conversely, one of the thing I love about Ghenet is that this was never a problem...that and the fact that the food is always super spicy. This may make me sound off my rocker, but it's a pet peeve I have with food!

                    1. re: JungMann
                      w
                      weetara Apr 13, 2007 08:58 PM

                      According to their website, Queen of Sheba is actually owned by the same person who owns Meskerem.

                      http://shebanyc.com/Philipos.html

                      I've been to Awash, Meskerem, and Sheba, and Sheba is my favorite by far. Great veggie combo, and they have a beef dish I have not seen elsewhere that includes beef jerky and shreds of injera. It's fantastic, though more than once they have been out of it when I asked, which made me sad. Plenty of other good dishes to choose from, though.

                      1. re: weetara
                        a_and_w Apr 14, 2007 10:17 AM

                        Actually, Philipos (who's really nice, btw) was one of the original owners of Meskerem. He left to start his own restaurant, Q of S -- I don't think he's associated with Meskerem anymore. Still, their common parentage explains why the dishes are prepared very similarly.

                  2. janethepain Apr 2, 2007 12:56 PM

                    I've been to
                    - Queen of Sheba (ok - three of us shared the meat and veggie platter that the waitress said would fill up all three of us, but I guess we're big eaters. Nothing stood out in my mind, either, maybe because the food was less agressively spiced as I would have preferred);
                    - Meskerem in the Village (my first Ethiopian foray - was very bland and mushy and didn't make me want to try it again in a hurry); and
                    - Awash in the EV (ordered the platter again, thought it was decent, but again, not as spiced as I'd like).

                    I had Ethiopian in London, and I remember getting special kitfo (raw minced meat), and it was ridiculously delicious. Searing hot (I was sweating and blowing my nose throughout the meal) and well-spiced, it made me eager to try more.

                    I'm just afraid of going to another Ethiopian place in the city and being served bland food. I feel like you HAVE to go in a party of 2 or more, as I can imagine it might get kinda boring to eat one thing with all that injera. Is there a place that won't gringo-ize the food, or who will understand when you say you want it authentically Ethiopian?

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: janethepain
                      ballulah Apr 2, 2007 01:13 PM

                      HAHAHAHA. Take the cheap-o Chinatown bus to DC and have Ethiopian at nearly any place in Adam's Morgan. But failing that, I have really really enjoyed the meals I've had at Ghenet over the years. And I agree, it's best at a table with 4 adventurous eaters.

                      1. re: ballulah
                        welle Apr 3, 2007 08:16 AM

                        bus to Boston works too ;)

                    2. rose water Apr 3, 2007 08:46 AM

                      Nobody's mentioned my favorite, Zoma, on 113th St and Frederick Douglass. The food there is fantastic--great spicing, great flavor, so-so injera (not sour enough). Interestingly enough, they're also doing renovations directly across the street at Euro Corner? Euro Cafe? which has a new menu posted on the door featuring Ethiopian food.

                      1. e
                        ElizabethZ Apr 6, 2007 09:19 AM

                        I have to agree with Bob's post on Meskel (but not about the injera). I went there last night and the vegetarian combo (priced higher than vegetarian combos elsewhere in the city) was incredibly bland. I was surprised because I had been there before and had been impressed with the food. (And no Ethiopian beer! Only Heineken and Amstel.)

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: ElizabethZ
                          Bob Martinez Apr 6, 2007 10:02 AM

                          I am astounded to learn that there are Ethiopian beers. It is as if someone told me about a breed of flying kangaroos.

                          1. re: Bob Martinez
                            a_and_w Apr 6, 2007 10:05 AM

                            Corpse beer?

                            1. re: a_and_w
                              Bob Martinez Apr 6, 2007 11:08 AM

                              Ha!

                              Actually I was 99% certain that Meskel didn't have a liquor license.

                            2. re: Bob Martinez
                              Brian S Apr 12, 2007 08:54 AM

                              Kombocha Brewery north of Addis makes 3 brands. http://www.selamta.co.uk/ There's also homemade beer, called tella. Here's an account of a traveler who went bar-hopping in small towns in Ethiopia and compares that homemade beer to Belgian fine beer. http://72.14.209.104/search?q=cache:0...

                              Addis Beer, sold in many Ethiopian restaurants, is made in New Jersey.

                              (Okay most of this I got from the internet.)

                          2. janethepain Apr 12, 2007 09:54 AM

                            I ate at Awash in the EV for the second time, and of the Ethiopian restaurants I've tried in the city (Meskerem in the Village, Queen of Sheba, and Awash), I think it offers the best spicing. We ordered the Carnivore combo, which comes with five of the meat dishes and three vegetarian dishes of your choice. The vegetables were a bit boring, but there were a few standout meat dishes. The spicy beef (special tibs) didn't disappoint, and the doro wat was pretty good too. The lamb (yebeg alicha) was ok, very mild. I wanted to have their special kitfo, but we didn't. I asked for extra berbere powder (is that what it is?) on the side, and had to sprinkle that on some of the food (particularly the veggies) to kick it up. But at least you know that they can do the beef dishes pretty well and that they're worth ordering next time, even if we don't order the combo again.

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