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new malden chow: ethiopian Habesha

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Went for lunch. I don't pretend to be an expert on this subject but the place was very clean, food was delicious, and there were lots of customers that did not look like me.

We asked for instructions on ordering and the suggestion was to split the Habesah special, which is Doro Wat and a bunch of other stuff. This was the typical ethiopan dish, with the delicious bread that essentially forms your untensials, and then you eat the stuff on top. Very good. The entre, which was more than enough to split for lunch, was $14. My beer was $3.

Its just up the street from Fuloon. I'd love to hear the impressions of some folks that know what they are talking about. We will certainly be back.

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  1. I have looked for this restaurant but can not find. Do you have an address for address for this restaurant?

    8 Replies
    1. re: debidokun

      535 Main St.

      1. re: Taralli

        That used to be the Fortune Restaurant, in the strip of stores north of the square, facing the end of Florence St.

        1. re: Karl S

          This is how I think of the location, possibly helpful or more confusin.

          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6041...

          1. re: itaunas

            Correct- Starting from Fuloon: Fuloon is on the corner of Main and Irving. Take a right out of Fuloon and head north on Main for maybe a quarter mile. You will have to bear left to stay on Main (if you bear right you will be on Salem). At the 3 way intersection of Main and Florence, look right.

            I think the exact street address is 531 Main St, Malden, MA, United States. If you google streetview that address, look for the "Triple M Plaza" sign. I am not sure that sign is there anymore, but that location is where the restaurant is.

            1. re: drbangha

              Thanks for posting the address. I thought it was closer to Fuloon than this based upon your, "Its just up the street from Fuloon." I was looking right around Fuloon but could not find and thus I wondered if the restaurant even existed. Now I know were it is!

              1. re: debidokun

                Sorry, I should have posted the address from the begining. Do you know Ethiopian food? Like I said, I don't pretend to, but it definitely tasted good. I am hoping to hear from some experts. If not I will just start at the top of the menu and work my way down!

                1. re: drbangha

                  I do not know Ethiopian food but am willing to eat any type of food. I ate once in Washington DC about 10 years ago.

                  I was out walking and located this restaurant this morning. I have a few suggestions for the owner that you might want to pass along to him.

                  1) Open the curtains so people can see what the restaurant looks like.

                  2) Post a menu so people know what food is being offered and what the prices are.

                  If I was walking by this restaurant and did not know about it, there is absolutely no chance that I would visit it.

                  Maybe you would not want to say anything about the windows as this might be how I feel and others prefer them closed. However, not having a menu in an the window and people going by not having any idea what type of restaurant this is, just makes no sense.

                  1. re: debidokun

                    Deb- I don't know enough about running an ethopian restaurant to make these suggestions to the owner, but it sounds like you do. Why don't you give the place a try and make your recomendations while you are at?

    2. Husband and I had lunch at Habesha today after reading this post. We also split the Habesha special (doro wat, 2 different lentil dishes, greens, and cabbage/potatoes). Plenty for 2. We've only had Ethiopian food a couple of times, so not qualified to assess anything technical but certainly enjoyed this and would return. That said, have to comment that the food could have been a little better heated through.

      The owners were very friendly and welcoming -- sadly the restaurant was deserted. It has about 10-15 tables and a bar and we were the only customers. The owner was touting the honey wine, which we will have to try next time.

      1. We finally got over to Habesha last night. Excellent food overall, with some heavy-duty spices added to some of the items we had (the lentils, for instance, had a strong, smoky flavor from the hot paprika they added). My favorite item was probably the awaze tibs (marinated beef with garlic and hot spices), which had a ton of flavor coming from the garlic as well as all the spices in the sauce. I seemed to taste cloves, ginger, cayenne pepper, cardamom, and maybe some paprika in the sauce, but it was so complex it was tough to tell--kind of like an Ethiopian mole in its complexity (not taste).

        Service was terrific--our server and perhaps the owner kept checking on us, asking us how we liked the various dishes and answering questions about ingredients, etc.

        Prices were very good--price range is between $8 and $14, give or take.

        The atmosphere was pretty plain, though dressed up a bit by curtains, tablecloths, and posters of Ethiopia on the walls. The bar area within the dining room indicated that perhaps this place was a dive bar in the past, but I don't know the space all that well, so I could be wrong about that.

        All in all, an excellent addition to Malden, which is becoming increasingly restaurant-rich these days...

        1. I went for lunch today. I had the Habesha special for $14. Easily enough for two people with a good appetite. I thought it was very good, especially the various vegie dishes. Great value and near the Malden Center T stop on the orange line.

          1. Habesha is an understated, unassuming kind of place: I almost passed it by on the way to our chowdown there today. No mesob (the tippy straw pedestal on which Ethiopian meals are traditionally served), no uncomfortable carved chairs with short slanted backs, no extensive menu—the dozen dishes on offer all fit on a single page. The food, though, is the real thing, and the woman who runs the place is so eager to please that one can’t help but appreciate the pride, skill, and work that went into preparing our meal.

            We passed up the chicken and lamb entrees to focus on beef, in three incarnations. We asked for the kitfo (finely chopped beef) to be served raw, which many Ethiopians consider to be the best way to appreciate its flavor. Mixed with niter qibe (spiced clarified butter) and flavored with mitmita, it has a late-blooming peppery kick. Awaze tibs is a delicious stew of marinated beef chunks cooked with onions and peppers, also quite spicy. And quanta firfir consists of torn-up pieces of injera soaked in a similar sauce and studded with dried beef—a dish typically served for breakfast in Ethiopia, to use up leftover injera.

            We also ordered the combination vegetable platter, which came with a fairly standard selection: lentils in spicy sauce (yemisir wat), chickpeas in a mild sauce (shiro wat), collard greens (gomen), cabbage (tikka gomen), dry-fried green beans & carrots, and a salad of iceberg lettuce and tomato, which made a good foil for some of the spicier dishes. They ranged from okay to delicious—though for my money, as with much Ethiopian cooking, the meaty stews are the standouts here.

            Skip the spiced tea, unless you don’t mind waiting an extra 15 minutes for a cup of Lipton brewed with a dash of cloves.

            Ever since Fasika decamped from JP, I’ve taken to driving down to Lalibela’s in New Haven whenever I wanted a really good Ethiopian meal. To my palate at least, the remaining Ethiopian restaurants in greater Boston all missed the mark to some degree. I’m happy to find that’s no longer the case. Now, when I want that meal, I’ll just head to Malden.

            Photos are here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/84539512...

             
             
            12 Replies
            1. re: NoNatto

              one of the wonderful things about the meal was that we had three separate beef dishes and each one of them was completely different in both taste and texture. from the chewy pieces of dried beef in the quanta firfir to the tender cubes of beef in the awaze tibs to the squishy ground beef in the spicy kitfo

              the only disappointment was the "spicy coffee." which, as noted above, was actually just hot lipton tea with cloves. i was expecting the traditional ethiopian coffee ceremony based on the hostess's enthusiastic description

              1. re: NoNatto

                Sounds like it might be nice to partner this place with FuLoon as a place for Chow Championing north of Boston.

                Unfortunately, my supertaster buds means I cannot tolerate much capsaicin (I usually reserve my explorations with heat for a bit at lunch, so that my sinuses have many hours to recover before I go to bed...), and I would hate to be the Chowhound who ruins a place like this by being too timid.

                1. re: Karl S

                  The great thing about Ethiopian food is that it can accommodate people with varied tastes and sensitivities—carnivores & vegetarians, timid palates (or sinuses) and robust ones. What’s more, much of the food is helpfully color-coded: if it’s some shade of red, it probably contains capsaicin in one of its Ethiopian manifestations (tipoffs on the menu are “mitmita,” “awaze,” or “berbere”). But five of the six vegetable dishes we tried yesterday contained little or no capsaicin, nor did some of the meat entrees we chose not to order. Look for “alecha” dishes on the menu, a term attached to dishes that may be flavored with onions, garlic, ginger and other spices but not capsaicin. There are often two versions of the same dish: e.g., “doro wat” is chicken stew with berbere-laced sauce, while “doro alecha” is a milder version without berbere. The woman who runs Habesha would be happy to recommend choices that would leave your sinuses unimpaired.

                  The communal eating from a central platter also caters to culinary diversity. People can take a bite of something to see if they like it, eating sparingly (or avoiding altogether) certain dishes while focusing on the ones they enjoy, and leaving people like me to peel the awaze-soaked injera from the serving platter after the main dishes have been consumed. You don’t need to be a fire-eater to have a tasty and satisfying Ethiopian meal.

                  1. re: NoNatto

                    And if you are a fire-eater, it's not all *that* hot (assume this can be tailored by request). Very very tasty though. I know beans about Ethiopian food but I'm hooked. Although it would be challenging to do solo--the food is rich and the portions are large.

                    1. re: NoNatto

                      Thank you, that is very helpful. All of my Ethiopian dining experiences (about 3) have been in groups of fireeaters where I had little to enjoy.

                      1. re: NoNatto

                        Absolutely one of the best meals we’ve had. The new combinations of spices had my taste buds popping – loved the kitfo. Many dishes had a piquant sour flavor note, which we really liked. Several of us commented on how the spices and flavors pleasantly lingered on our palates, afterwards, as we sat around and chatted. I can’t wait to go back & try some of the other items we didn’t order this time around.

                    2. re: NoNatto

                      It WAS a delicious meal!

                      Few quick things: The injera (which is traditionally used instead of utensils to scoop up the stews; it looks like a large, spongy crepe; NN has a pic on his flickr page) is made with teff - an Ethiopian grain, at Habesha.

                      And - as others have noted - the prices here are incredibly reasonable; seven of us were satiated, spending $10 each incl. t + t.

                      And it's a short and pleasant walk from the T; go through turnstiles and out straight ahead, turn left, and then follow Florence to the right until it meets Main.

                      1. re: fredid

                        Thank you all for the above responses- I am thrilled to hear my completely uniformed instincts ended up accurate and that this place is in fact the real deal.

                        1. re: drbangha

                          And thank you for being the first one to actually venture in to eat and report!

                          BTW, as you may have been able to tell from his posts, NoNatto has spent a good bit of time in Ethiopia, and he was quite happy, too!

                          1. re: fredid

                            We went on Friday night and were very pleased again. Per the recomendations above, we went for the awaze tibs and the quanta firfir, which were both delicious. We also tried the kitfo, which was interesting, but not not my favorite.

                            Overall I am really looking forward to exploring the rest of the menu. The service was great.

                            I was dissapointed that we were the only guests at around 8 on a Friday.... I hope this place succeeds.

                            1. re: drbangha

                              Just curious - Did you try the kitfo cooked or raw? We asked for it raw, and the gracious host was quite surprised - but it may well be an acquired/not for everyone! kind of taste...

                              1. re: fredid

                                We did try the kitfo raw. I had read a little bit about it and saw that was the "right" way to have it, so thats what we did, although for reasons that are not very PC I was initially a little hesitant, notwithstanding I love beef tartare, carpacio etc.

                    3. Being a lover of Ethiopian food, I have been wanting to try Habesha since reading about it here. We finally had a chance to try it last night and it was fantastic. We ordered the Habesha Special and all of the food was delicious. I really enjoyed the vegetables here, much more than what I usually get at Addis Red Sea. There was a spicy lentil dish and a dish of roasted carrots and peppers which was delicious.

                      The kitfo had a nice spicy kick to it and you could really taste the flavor of the butter in it. Overall, I think the taste of the food is a bit better than Addis. The food seemed to have more spice in it.

                      Service was good and we the owner came out to check in on us and seemed so pleased that we were raving about her food. She said proudly, with a big smile, "I cooked all that myself".

                      My only quibble is the structure of the menu. I had wanted to try the awaze tibs, but there's no option to order any of the vegetable dishes outside of the special, and the meat dishes just come as is, with no sides. I asked if we could replace the doro wat on the special with the tibs, and they said no. The menu at Addis is a bit more flexible I think. You can order whatever you want on the special, or get things individually. I suppose it's because it's just the owner in the back, cooking everything and they don't have the staff to do a lot of custom ordering.

                      I think next time, instead of the two specials, we will get one special and an order of the tibs to share. The two specials was a huge amount of food and we probably didn't need to order two.

                      Finally, I'd urge all you chowhounds to go and support this place. We walked in on a Saturday night at 7:00pm, and we were the only customers. I almost thought it was closed. It's too good to let it die from lack of business.

                      1. Just for people looking for more info: Globe gives a great review -

                        http://www.boston.com/ae/food/restaur...

                        1. Just a quick note of praise: I have visited Habesha twice in the last couple of weeks and both times have had amazingly delicious meals. The vegetarian combinations are huge, tasty, and quite flavorful, and the meat dishes are rich and addictive. Alas, both times I've visited the place has been -dead-, as in we were the only table there and before walking in I was certain it was closed. I really do not want this place to fail, and there is no reason it shouldn't be overflowing with customers; the food is truly fantastic. Please give it a try if you haven't already!

                          1. i went to Habesha today- they have a Restaurant.com gift certificate.

                            I'm a little/lot irritated/grossed out. I don't eat beef and haven't had it in 22 years. I ordered the vegetarian platter, and after re-reading the menu to write an accurate Yelp review, I'm quite certain they served me Kifto Dulet in my vegetarian platter. And I ate it. I though it looked like meat, but didn't say anything or change it back since so much of Ethiopian foods just looks like a big "glob" of food. It tasted very complex, spicy, and "ground" something or other... now that I am rereading the menu, I believe it's what I ate. I'm not happy.

                            Everything else was fantastic, but I am upset at this potential major mistake.

                            12 Replies
                            1. re: SaraASR

                              Oh, I really feel for you, Sara!! As a mom of two girls who are vegetarians (who used to be vegan), and as someone who was vegetarian way, way back in the days (when I was young) - I understand completely.

                              I'm not vegetarian now, but just the idea of raw meat grosses me out. I'm hoping that someone who has had the veggie plate there can chime in - maybe it WASN'T raw meat (I'm hoping)... I know when I prepared food for my girls, I made many veggie things that were close replicas of meat options.

                              1. re: SaraASR

                                I recall a red, spicy lentil "glob" on the veg platter. Kifto sounds unlikely as it's made to order.

                                1. re: Aromatherapy

                                  Whatever it was, it was definitely beef. My stomach has been in turmoil since 3AM. After speaking with my friend, he had the same beef on his Habesha special plate.

                                  1. re: Aromatherapy

                                    Yup, lentils are definitely part of the standard veg platter. I assume a vegetarian would know what lentils taste like, and it seems highly unlikely that they would serve a meat dish since it's more expensive than the ingredients on the veg platter... Maybe a kitchen miscommunication?

                                  2. re: SaraASR

                                    Surely Habesha knows that some of its patrons are strict vegetarians, and while it’s possible that your platter was switched with one ordered by another table, I find it difficult to believe that you would have received kitfo by mistake. When our group of non-Ethiopians ordered it, the waitress double-checked to confirm that we knew what it was and that we wanted it to be served raw. (She did the same thing when we returned a few weeks ago and ordered our gored gored to be served raw.)

                                    Is it possible you confused the yemisir wat (a spicy lentil dish) for beef? It’s certainly got the spicy complexity and “chopped” texture you noted—though it retains a vegetal fibrous chewiness and lacks the unctuous buttery smoothness of the raw beef. The lentil dish is a dark reddish-brown that visually resembles a meat dish, whereas the kitfo is bright pink and swimming in melted butter. (See photo for comparison.) Hard to imagine eating the kitfo and not knowing right away that it's meat, however.

                                    While I’m happy to see restaurants taken to task on this board for lapses such as the one you describe, I’m equally dismayed when restaurants I admire (and which are sorely in need of more customers) draw criticism that might in fact be unmerited.

                                     
                                    1. re: NoNatto

                                      Ethiopian Christians abstain from meat about half the year, so the concept of not eating meat is very well understood in that culture. That said, cultures that practice such extensive (but not complete) abstinence often develop foods that mimic meat.

                                      1. re: NoNatto

                                        NoNatto - I think it's great you included a photo. Karl - I also considered the possibility that they might have foods that mimic meat. Figure if I tried to do it in my kitchen (and the Chinese do the same, too)...

                                        1. re: NoNatto

                                          Looks like you nailed it. No way a vegetarian would be at all confused when looking at that raw meat -- there is no question. The lentils, on the other hand, could go either way, and definitely have a meat-like texture. Thanks for posting the photo and clearing that up!

                                        2. re: SaraASR

                                          I have to agree with the posters below - are you sure it wasn't something veggie that you ate? And why, if there was any doubt in your mind, did you eat it? I'm a veggie (as long as you have been) and I have been in similar situations and asked if I had any doubt. Why didn't you? I'm confused.

                                          1. re: digga

                                            I didn't have any concerns since I ordered the VEGETARIAN SAMPLER. It wasn't until I got home and re-read the menu that I looked at the menu again, and realized that I was served something that wasn't on the vegetarian sampler menu, but matched the exact description of a beef dish. Not that confusing, actually.

                                            1. re: SaraASR

                                              I've had the veggie platter. Nothing looked like meat.

                                              1. re: SaraASR

                                                Sara, it sounds like someone may have given you the wrong plate. Happens all the time in restaurants - horrid when someone is a vegetarian or has food allergies.