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Jun 10, 2008 11:17 AM

Kitfo sandwich

Here's the other thing I can't stop eating lately: kitfo sandwiches at Merkato. Kitfo is raw beef - their plain kitfo is pretty good. (Meals By Genet's kitfo is better, but, in general, all dishes are better at Meals by Genet. The air is better.)

But in a sandwich, it's perfect. They kind of take a heap of sliced kitfo and skip it over a hot grill, I think (like a rock skipping a lake) so it's mostly raw, but little bits of edges are slightly cooked. It's tangy, it's spicy, it's got the full Ethiopian flavor-load, and it's served in crispy bread that rapidly turns soft and mushy under the meat-juices. Sort of an insane, raw, self-juicing version of a French dip, but with cardamom.

Meals by Genet has the finer, more sublime kitfo. But the sort of raw-funky-tang-agressive-muscular thing going on with Merkato's kitfo, especially with the brief flirtation with heat, goes great in a sandwich.


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  1. Sounds so good. Sadly, the last time I ate at Merkato, I bloated up over 8 lbs the next day with water from all the salt. Now I eat at Rahel, which, being veggie, doesn't do Kitfo!

    3 Replies
    1. re: Diana

      I have the opposite feeling - the Rahel is kind of tuned down from the hits of salt and spice that really make Merkato and Meals by Genet - salt used not as an invisible seasoning, but as an independent flavor.

      But the kitfo sandwich is not one of the salty items.

      1. re: Thi N.

        I see your [point, I just don't like looking and feeling like a water balloon the next day. I just can't handle the massive amounts of salt they add.

        I feel that the lower salt at Rahel allows me to taste the subtle nuances of her fine food, the flavors of the ingredients rather than supersalt. The right amount of salt enhances a dishes flavor without really adding a flavor of salt.

        Think of it like women's make-up. If you can tell right away it's there, the person used too much!

        Besides, you can always add salt after the fact. I can't take it out!

        1. re: Diana

          It's different when salt is an ingredient... I think the Euro approach is to treat salt as a flavor-enhancer only, to salt only to the point where the other flavors are amped up by it, but it's invisible. I understand this aesthetic deeply - it's how I cook, mostly.

          But with some cuisines - Ethiopian, Thai, some Japanese, some Chinese - sometimes the salt is a distinct flavor. And so it's part of the cooking - it's part of the balance that comes out, a whole thing.

          Try it this way: in some aesthetics, if a woman's make-up is visible, then it's too much. Then there's Noh Theater. Or David Bowie.

    2. OMG Yum! a Kitfo sandwich. I love the Kitfo at MbG, but never seem to be going home after a meal there, which kills me, because I *know* the leftovers would cook up into one hell of a good burger. Thanks for the tip on Merkato.

      2 Replies
      1. re: debra

        While, of the restaurants on that strip (and, really, of all the ethiopian and eritrean places around LA), Meals by Genet is the clear holiness, I find myself eating at Merkato about twice as often.

        This is probably mostly because it's 1/3 the price, and I am, let's face it, poor as a laid-off dog.

        But not entirely - Meals by Genet is more the careful, perfect, sublime glory, and Merkato is more your favorite late-night diner - tougher, rawer, throatier food.

        1. re: Thi N.

          since they don't use meat, Rahel is even less expensive!

      2. Sounds Great!

        --> Is It too spicy for a "Gringo?"

        1 Reply
        1. re: Wes

          It is medium spicy. Say as spicy as a the spicy salsa at El Gran Burrito, or an average south indian chana masala, but not quite as spicy as Sichuan, and nowhere near standard Thai spicy.