Bizarre Night at Fasika
We finally got to Fasika on Broadway in East Somerville last night, and, well, it was probably the oddest dining experience I've had since the Red Barrel in Essex a couple of years back.
For those who haven't been, the left side of Fasika is a stark, plain dining room with a mix of basket-like tables and more traditional tables, while the right side is a loud, gritty working-class bar with blaring rock music. Now I'm a big Led Zep fan, but it was truly weird hearing drunk people scream along to "Over the Hills and Far Away" while I'm dining on lentils with ginger sauce and beef sambosas. And it got weirder, as the bar folks started screaming to "Making Love Out of Nothing at All" by Air Supply, as well as some truly horrid tune by Poison. In addition to the loud singalongs, every now and then I heard a woman scream "Shaddup" followed by a couple of guys chuckling. And all this while Ethiopian gentlemen were quietly kicking back at one of the basket tables on the dining side of the place, oblivious to the carnage going on just a few feet away. This is indeed not your typical restaurant, and perhaps not one to take family to if they are used to generic, familiar dining spots.
Anyway, to the food: We started with the aforementioned beef sambosas (ground beef with mild spices inside a fried dough shell). They were very greasy, but the beef was delicious and the spices only added to the taste. We also ordered some honey wine to start off with, and it was really, really good, though they were served in what looked like salad dressing pourers (it felt strange touching these glasses before we drank--kind of like toasting before eating a salad). Our entrees were served in a huge plate with unleavened bread spread across the bottom. I thought that the meat dish we had was the winner here; it was called minchet abish key--chopped prime beef sauteed in berbere sauce (a spicy sauce with cardamom, ginger, and several other spices). The other dish was very good, too, though a bit on the bland side. It was called yekik alicha--split yellow peas in a mild garlic ginger sauce. The entrees came with several extra pieces of unleavened bread, and, like with most Ethiopian restaurants, there was no silverware, so it was all about using the bread to scoop up the food.
Prices were cheap (most dishes were around $10), our waitress was as nice as could be, and the atmosphere, while truly bizarre, had a kind of kooky charm to it. I think I like the food at Addis Red Sea just a little better--and for a quiet evening out, I would much rather go there--but Fasika is definitely a place I'd like to get back to. Hopefully they won't be playing Air Supply next time, though.
I just visited Addis Red Sea (on Mass Ave) for the first time last night, and I have to say... not overly thrilled. We arrived at about 6:30, and though there were plenty of open seats, our party of 4 waited 20 minutes for a seat. Once seated, we were ignored for a good 30 minutes, desperately eyeing the water pitchers and plates of bread passing by our table every few minutes. I was convinced we were just seated in 'no man's land' (we were actually in the dead center of the room, so this is unlikely) but the couple next to us said they'd been there for 45 minutes and had just been waited on.
We finally ordered (veggie and lentil Sambusas as an appetizer, yummy but not remarkable, and a bit greasy), Red Sea Combo, a chicken dish and my vegetarian entree, and waited another 40 minutes for the food to show up. When it finally came, I was a bit shocked to see the small portion sizes. I had expected a little more... substance... in addition to the Injera, but alas, I was spooned out about 3/4 cup of chopped potatoes, carrots, and peas in a somewhat bland sauce.
As a vegetarian, I also had to ask for a separate plate so as not to find chunks of cow or chicken in my dish...they don't warn you of this before hand, so vegetarians and vegans, take note! The lentil salad was tasty, and the collard greens were very good (although these didn't accompany my meal, but were a part of the Red Sea Combo), but I can't say I was impressed. The Injera was probably my favorite part of the meal as it reminded me of a sweet breakfast pancake, and eating with my hands was a fun change- felt a bit like being a toddler again. Overall, I appreciate the unique experience offered by places like Addis, but a two hour wait for sub-par food in small portions isn't exactly my idea of a great night out.
What an entertaining write-up - thanks hiddenboston!. It's definitely a unique place, which I think is part of its off-beat charm. We went a while ago with a few chowhounds and retired to the bar afterwards where we hung out with some of the friendly regulars, swapped jokes, and bought some rounds, though I promise, no sing-alongs.
Fasika on a cold night
147 Broadway, Somerville, MA 02145