Dallol Ethiopian Food - Las Vegas, NV
I'm no expert on Ethiopian food. I've paid some dues while living in San Francisco and in L.A. (the south end of Fairfax is Little Ethiopia with a variety of restaurants and coffee shops which I sampled occasionally). But Dallol felt like comfort food to me and for now, that's all I need.
Dallol (which apparently is the name of a volcano and a Northern settlement in Ethiopia) opened this month in the strangest food court mall in America (which happens to be across from the CSN Campus on Charleston Blvd near Torrey Pines). The location leaves much to be desired (it reminds me of an ugly indoor swap meet for some reason). Something about the location doesn't feel right. The location for LOS seems downright glamorous compared to this, so please...be warned. A few different "ethnic" (Mexican, Korean including boba, Italian, Jamaican/Caribbean and most recently, Ethiopian) outlets exist in the form of to go/order windows with community hard plastic seating inside. It's one long stretch of deserted nothingness - very unattractive.
However, Dallol's food is excellent and cooked with love by the small woman behind the counter. This is slower food - so if you're in a hurry, call in your order ahead of time (give her 10 or 15 minutes to put it together for you, she'll have it all boxed and ready). I ordered the vegetarian combination ($7.00) which came with more food than I knew what to do with.
If you're a fan of traditional Ethiopian flat bread (injera), this one will not disappoint. There is no shortage of it here either, she gave me two GIANT overlapping injera breads (one where she had placed hearty scoops of the vegetables atop and then one neatly folded which I enjoyed later with a different meal).
The two injera breads are, in fact, so generously sized they nearly do not fit in the large to-go box! Do not let the quantity fool you though- this is injera as it is meant to be, soft and warm and spongy and with that all too familiar sour bite. Delicious. Four vegetarian dishes were included: a lovely yellow lentil stew (unusually spiced and delightful), ultra creamy, smooth, butter based (after some research, I found out the butter is called niter kibbeh, a clarified butter much like Indian ghee infused with ginger, garlic, and several spices), collard greens (Gomen Wot) to rival any good greens you'd find in a Soul Food Restaurant sans the pork, a spicy red curry lentil which had some kick to it from the berbere (a thick paste of paprika, wine and other spices) and a smooth mixed cabbage vegetable stew (atkilt wot) which could convert any cabbage hater to a lover.
Honest, good, true, slow-cooked HEARTY food - spiced beautifully without being overwhelming, served generously and with heart. She also prepared the brightest, freshest green salad (Timatim Selata) I've ever seen in this city (our salads are sometimes on the grayish side, sadly enough) with fresh squeezed lime, olive oil and her own special blend of tossed secret seasonings. My only fear about this place is that no one will patronize it and it will soon close.
Great place for vegetarians and anyone willing to venture way off-off-off strip or those visiting who are staying with family and want to avoid the usual fast food fiasco.
I appreciate this woman, cooking her food without compromise in a small kitchen without any care as to whether you can interpret her scribbled menu on the message board. She did not bother to elaborate each dish on the menu. Everything is written without translation and without a clue as to what it is. She figures if you're there, you know what to get and if you don't know what to get, you'll simply have to trust you're in good hands. Her slogan is "tasting is believing". This is real food for unreal times and I, for one, believe.
Dallol Ethiopian Food (no website, of course and I'm honestly surprised there's a phone)
6475 W Charleston Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89146
Went again yesterday for lunch (10/24/07) at around noon. The owner/cook seemed flustered and told me she was not ready and did not have what I ordered. I told her to prepare ANYTHING for me and that I'd be back in 15 minutes. My flexibility paid off - she welcomed me back with an array of wonderful aromas and flavors packed and ready to go. Enjoyed it thoroughly!
Please maintain a level of patience and flexibility with her old-world style service. She may not always have what you want, she may not operate at fast food speed, she may not even be open on the day you arrive but if you catch her, trust you're in good hands. I do the same thing at LOS - I just tell them to bring me whatever Saipin feels like cooking that day. I haven't been disappointed yet!
Thanks! Las Vegas is a tough town for anything off-strip and unusual. I was just thinking about a particular intersection (Sahara and Fort Apache) which should be bustling with business but has seen a HIGH turnover of pedestrian fare (including Lamar's Donuts, Cafe de Tout, Z'Tejas, Bertolini's and even McDonald's has shut down there). Even these types of popular places can't survive in this town. Grand Opening, Grand Closing. Can you imagine a tiny Ethiopian take out window in a weird part of town with no formal menu? I better eat there as much as possible while I still can, right?