Last Friday night, Amy and I got together with a couple recently engaged friends of ours - Mike and Jen. You might remember them from our trip to Komi. But to start this review off, I want you to read the IM conversation I had with Mike to set up Friday night. Keep in mind this was on Monday:
Mike: yt? Give me a holla' when you get a chance
jasewyndu: hey, whatup!
Mike: not too much - just chilling
Mike: hey Jen and I are finally back in town this weekend. you all going to be around?
Mike: want to do some dinner?
jasewyndu: sure, sounds good
jasewyndu: I'll do a writeup on the trip ;)
Mike: lol - i'll make a reserv
Mike: 8:30? 9?
jasewyndu: do they take reservations?
Mike: someone around here said i should get one
Mike: ok, i'll call and make a reserv
Mike: damn they're booked
Mike: fri and sat.
jasewyndu: no effing way!
jasewyndu: that blows
Mike: haha yeah
Mike: i guess you have to call at least a week in advance
Mike: or more
jasewyndu: so where else can we go?
Mike: hmm i'm not sure - i just im'd jen - see if she comes up w/ anything
jasewyndu: I'll think too. there are a bunch of places I want to try
jasewyndu: I am just drawing a blank right now
Mike: ethiopian? How about Dukem.
Jason: Oh yeah. I've been meaning to try that for a while now. People emailed me that I should try it.
Jason: supposed to be the best Ethiopian in DC
Mike: Ok, I've never had Ethiopian before. Guess this is a good time to try it
Jason: OK. So Dukem, Fri night.
Jason: Cool, see you Fri night then. Call me when you leave. We can meet at our place.
Dukem, which is probably the least rated Ethiopian restaurant, is regarded by many as one of the best Ethiopian restaurants in DC. I've had a number of people email me telling me that if I liked Meskerem and Zed's, I'll definitely like Dukem. So when Mike mentioned going to Dukem, I was all over it.
So Friday night, instead of meeting at our place, we decided to meet Mike and Jen at Dukem. It was 7:30 and rather than wait till 8:30 when we had said we would meet them, we decided to just go down and get a few drinks before dinner. Looking around the restaurant, in front of the bar where we sat, was a small dance floor, and behind that, as small stage with a large projection screen TV. Supposedly, bands play live music after 10. All around us, people were eating their dinners and they all seemed pretty satisfied with their meals.
After a couple beers, Mike and Jen arrived. The hostess/one of the waitresses, told us she would get us a table. After about 15 minutes, we cornered the waitress again, asking about our table - "Yeah, it will be a few minutes more." Ok. Some people had just left and the waitress then came by and told us our table was ready, but it really wasn't. Another 5 minutes later after they actually cleaned off our table and put some place settings down, they were ready for us. If getting our table seemed awkward, the service seemed even more awkward. We were looking at the menu, and we decided to try a couple sampler platters - one with kitfo and another with tibbs and watt. We also order 4 lentil sambusas. One thing worth noting, Dukem seemed to be out of an awful lot on a Friday night. We first wanted to order 4 meat sambusas and they were out of them. We also wanted a combination platter with lamb watt and they were out of that, so they had to substitute in chicken watt instead.
When we ordered the Kitfo, our waitress checked to make sure we really wanted it, which is understandable. None of us had never had Kitfo before, but wanted to try it. Kitfo is very lean rare beef ground up and mixed with spices. This combination is particular, served it with homemade cottage cheese and fitfit, which is injera soaked in the sauce of the rare beef. Ok, so it does not sound like the most appetizing thing in the world, but we wanted to try it. After a few beers, we were feeling a bit more brave than usual. ;) Our waitress was very insistant that we did not want the Kitfo combination. When we insisted that we in fact DID want it, she brought over the manager who proceeded to draw a diagram on a piece of paper of the dish and explain what kitfo was to us again. "YES. WE KNOW WHAT IT IS. PLEASE PUT IN OUR ORDER FOR IT!" No, that's not really how I said it, but the situation was rather frustrating for us all. They must had a lot of people order that dish and send it back because they don't get what it really is.
About 20 minutes later, the food came out, and they had forgotten to bring out the sambusas before the rest of the food. Well, actually, we had to remind them to bring them out. I wasn't to crazy about their sambusas. They were really greasy compared to others I've had. My favorite sambusas are the cabbage sambusas at Meskerem.
Ok, now this is where my review of Dukem takes a turn and starts to sound a bit more positive. The kitfo was good. No. Really good. We were all diving into it. It was spicy, and full of flavor. The chicken watt was very good as well. The chicken was tender and juicy - not overcooked and dry. (Although, I have to say that I'm not crazy about Ethiopian chicken dishes because they leave the chicken on the bone. Eating chicken on the bone with no utensils and only injera isn't the easiest thing in the world to do.) The lamb tibbs was pretty good, although I thought that the versions of the same dish I've had at Zed's or Meskerem were better.
In the end, Amy and I were pretty unenthused about our meal and we were ready for the check. Jen seemed to really like Ethiopian food - it was her first time eating it, so that was a good thing. The only thing about the meal that I thought was particularly rejuvinating about the trip to Dukem was the bill. For 4 people, it only came to around $90, which I thought was extremely reasonable. We ordered appetizers, enough entrees for 4, a bottle of wine, and a beer. That, however, doesn't make up for the spotty service, and slightly above-average food.
1114 U St., NW
Washington, DC, 20009
Sunday - Thursday 11am - 2am
Friday - Saturday 11am - 3am
(Kitchen closes 1hr before closing time)
Carry Out: 9am - Midnight
Dress Code: From the Dukem web site: "We are an upscale restaurant with no formal dress code. We have an appropriate atmosphere for formal dining and entertainment but we welcome people in relaxed, casual clothing as well."
Dukem Web Site