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Ethiopian Saturday lunch?

We're meeting some friends in Little Ethiopia for lunch this Saturday. We've had both big hit and sad miss at Rosalind's, the miss unfortunately being when we were introducing some other people to the cuisine, so we're a bit gun-shy. Just looking over local press from past years I'm seeing strong reviews for both Nyala and Messob. Merkato got raves here on the LA Board, but I'm remembering looking in and getting Snack Bar vibes, not the atmosphere we're looking for.

Comments and/or suggestions? Too bad Genet doesn't do lunch …

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  1. My favorite is Little Ethiopia restaurant, and I believe they are open for lunch. I find their flavors to be a bit bolder and more interesting than the rest of the pack.

    1. Last Sunday our movie club did an outing to see the Kubrick exhibit at LACMA. We were to meet at Nyala for lunch. When we got there, we found the store open but none of our friends. I got a sms message saying they had moved to Messob - so that is where we went. Apparently because of the time change, Nyala was not open when they showed up around 11:30-11:45.

      Messob was a hit and a miss. Before we got there, the group had ordered, and happily drinking an Ethiopian wine - I think the name was "Gouder". It tasted bad - really malodorous and also it had turned to acid! The waitress explained Ethiopian wines were dry etc. - so they charged us for the wine.

      The group ordered the sambosas - similar to Indian samosa, for appetizers. These were vegetarian filling, tasty, more so with the spicy red sauce that accompanied them.

      Between my wife and me - I recommended we order the combination plate - but she prevailed. So we ordered the Doro Wat: chicken stewed in pepper sauce with spices, and I wanted the Yebeg Siga Alitcha: lamb stew with garlic, ginger and assorted spices. The waitress strongly waived me away from it - my fault, I should have stuck to my guns - and instead I ended up getting the Yetibs Fit Fit: beef with onions, green chillis, tomatoes. That was as bland as can be. I had to ask for the spicy sambosa sauce to make it go down. The doro wat was quite good, though I would have preferred smaller pieces of chicken rather than the whole large legs.

      Overall - it was a disappointing meal, primarily because of the nature of the group ordering, and partly my fault. However, I cannot compare this with the few Ethiopian meals I have had in Washington DC.

      1 Reply
      1. re: suvro

        I have to agree with your last statement. At least when I traveled to DC (and ate all the Ethiopian I could get and dragged other people) which was at least 15 years ago it was much tastier, if you didn't order the spaghetti.

      2. I have always had a good experience at Merkato. It's where the Ethiopians go and, I'm told like eating in an Addis Ababa cafe. Nothing fancy for sure but, delish.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Kitchen Queen

          << It's where the Ethiopians go>>

          funny,
          i have two ethiopian girlfriends.
          one sent me to rahael, and even called them before i arrived to order for me.
          the other took a group of us to nyala.

          maybe my ethiopian friends didn't get the memo.

        2. Hi Will. Merkato is always my favorite (were you looking into the store side of it?). The restaurant is on the right when facing the restaurant. I have sampled most of the restaurants in LE and still find Merkato to be the best.
          <added>: The scientist here at work who is Ethiopian finally agreed with me that Merkato was the best in the area (although he says that DC has the absolute best Ethiopian restaurants in the US). And he comes from a family of very good cooks (he shares his food with me often). Their plans to open an Ethiopian restaurant in San Diego is on hold.

          2 Replies
          1. re: WildSwede

            I was looking at whatever I could see, and it looked about as comfy as a bus station; same with whatever online pictures I could find. We will have to try it sometime, though. What we're doing this time is once again hosting some newbies, and between that, the mixed reviews of the other places, and Mrs. O's desire to eat out on the veranda, we're going to give Rosalind's another chance to redeem itself.

            My primary physician is Ethiopian, and the only comment I've been able to get out of him is that Yes, he's eaten at Rosalind's and liked it. But he refuses (very politely) to volunteer anything.

            1. re: Will Owen

              Heehee. Not Darios. We have debates about the various restaurants. At first, he like Messob (I did not have a good experience there) and then he came around to agreeing with me that Merkato is the best in the area. He used to drive down there from Pasadena on weekdays to pick up lunch. It was from a place that is actually a small market. They made the most amazing Awaze Tibbs. Whenever he would go, he would bring me an order. I cannot find a place that makes it as good. Unfortunately, the lady who used to make it has disappeared.

          2. I happened to be on the two blocks of Fairfax that make up Little Ethiopia on Wednesday night.

            I chose Messob, and as I often do if I am alone ordered the vegetarian platter with the larger number of dishes. Vegetarian Paradise? I can't recall its name, but it includes several things that the regular Vegetarian Delight does not.

            I love the food and would be happy to serve it to guests. Additionally, I have always been treated well and I have found that the staff has gone out of its way for me. On Wednesday, I mentioned early that I would like to take home an additional order of one of the dishes I was eating, a bracing and somewhat spicy dish made of injera melded with one of the sauces. Forgot about it entirely. When I opened my huge plate of leftovers the next day, there was an additional portion of the dish, although I had forgotten about it and certainly not paid for it, which I had intended t do.

            The bottom line, to me, is this - there are several places with good Ethiopian food on Fairfax. That said, every time I am on the street, I visit Merkato for snacks and soap, and often have a cold drink with the few Ethiopian people on site, who are uniformly welcoming. It is a great place to hang out, and even when I don't eat, it is my go to place, and I am not nearly Ethiopian. It is a far better place than many others.

            I think I would choose Messob and then visit Merkato. Skip Nyala, which I have always regarded as a tourist trap.

            But again, I know very little.

            Have a good time.

            1. We did go to Rosalind's, and wound up eating inside anyway as it was a tad chilly in the shade. The four of us shared two sampler platters, the appetizers and the main dishes, and wound up stuffed to the gills before we'd even finished the big one. As we had gotten there shortly after they'd opened everything was quite fresh. The beef in sauce was a bit dry, but the lamb and chicken were perfect and very good, as were all the vegetable dishes. The server was ready and willing to explain everything, but polite about it - I liked how she managed to get us to wash our hands without actually telling us to!

              All we had to drink was water; they have a full bar, but at 11:30 am nobody was into it. Tab before tip was $45, and we happily left the nice woman $9.

              Thanks to those who have suggested it, I think we will try Merkato next time we're down there.