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Mar 30, 2007 03:04 PM

Ethiopian Food

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

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

    1. 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: Brian S

          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

            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

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

              1. re: Bob Martinez

                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

                  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

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

                    Corpse bread -- LOL!

                2. re: Bob Martinez

                  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

                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

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

            3 Replies
            1. re: gtrekker2003

              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

                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

                  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. 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

                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. 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

                  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

                    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

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


                      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

                        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.