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Sep 10, 2008

Etete Restaurant

Pic0234_2 I've been wrong for a while about Etete. A couple years back, I went to Etete, before it was remodeled, or had been written up by everyone and their brother and I had a horrible experience. The food was lackluster and the service was bad -- so bad I almost walked out. So, with so many choices in DC for Ethiopian food, I never went back.

Meanwhile, everyone has been talking about it like it's the greatest Ethiopian food you can get in DC. Many blogs have written about it; The Post; Washingtonian; Food and Wine. I've been wondering what happened that first time I went there so long ago. Was it some kind of fluke? Did I happen to walk into the place next door by mistake? I had to know.

We had a chance to stop by Etete last week. Amy has been craving Ethiopian food for a while now and we just happened to be over in the U Street area. With as much as we've all heard about Etete, I was surprised that we were able to walk in and sit down immediately. The seating is first come first serve, and the tables are very close together.A large group of boisterous friends having a great time were seated at the table right next to us, but we didn't mind. However, mood and atmosphere are probably not the best reasons to go here.

As I mentioned before, the restaurant has been remodeled since we were last there. You used to be able to sit at the bar and that's gone now, which can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on whether or not you're someone who likes to sit alone at a bar to eat. As part of the remodel, the owners added seating upstairs too.

Amy only wanted vegetarian dishes, but I was in the mood for some Kitfo so we ordered both. I was very curious what Etete's Special Kitfo. What made is so special? The server asked how I wanted it cooked, raw, medium, or well. I can't imagine eating kitfo cooked. I know the first time I ordered it at an Ethiopian restaurant, I was nervous. Eating raw beef is always a bit of a risk, but someone once put it to me this way. "What's the difference between kitfo and steak tartare?"

If your a vegetarian eating with non-vegetarian people, you should note that Etete (and most other Ethiopian restaurants for that matter) bring out the dishes all on the same plate. So it's likely that once everyone starts digging in with their injera that your vegetarian lentil dish will get mixed in with some of the sauces from the meat dishes. My kitfo was in the middle and all of Amy's various vegetarian dishes were surrounding it: red and yellow lentils; shaved cabbage and carrots; mustard, garlic and onion lentils; and tomatoes and onions.

I have to say that all of our food was really excellent. The kitfo was very tender and lean, and the flavors were a perfect combination of butter and spice, yet you could still taste the flavor of the meat. The special seasoned cottage cheeses were a nice compliment as well. I was mixing in some of Amy's vegetarian dishes and everything just went wonderfully together or by itself. We ate everything on the plate and I had room for more so we ate the injera that they cover the plate with.

(Actually, writing about this one an empty stomach is making me want to go back very soon.)

The service was fine. I mean, I'm not looking for 4 or 5 star treatment at a place like this, but I'm mainly looking for the server to come by and check on us once is a while to make sure that everything is okay and and that we don't need anything else. The servers did all of that pretty well. The only issue we had the whole night is that the Coke that Amy ordered initially was completely frozen and somehow shaken up at the same time. When she opened it, it fizzed up all over the place, but because it was frozen, she couldn't open it all the way so it just continued to fizz and fizz. The tables next to us noticed and were giving us their napkins, but there wasn't enough and it was about the run off the table onto our laps. The servers seemed completely oblivious as they walked by several times until I yelled out "Help!". It was actually quite comical.

I also ordered some honey wine for the first time, but I probably won't again. It was too sweet for my taste. I can see how it contrasts some of the spicier Ethiopian dishes OK, but I'd much rather prefer a good lager with Ethiopian food.

I think it's safe to say that our first visit, like the Coke "incident" this time, was somewhat of a fluke. I probably should've gone back to Etete sooner, but like I said, there are so many options for Ethiopian food in DC that it was hard to, which really shows how hard it can be for restaurants. One bad experience can turn a diner off for a long time. I'm happy to say we'll be going back soon.

Etete
1942 9th Street NW
Washington DC 20009
(202) 232-7600
Map

www.eteterestaurant.com

Dress Code: Very Casual
Parking: Street Parking can sometimes be found
Closest Metro: U Street
Reservations: Not Taken
Baby-Child friendly rating: 2 diapers. They have child seats, but that's about it when it comes to kids. Not kids menu or anything like that, so unless you think your child will eat Tibs or Wat, you should probably think twice about it.

Categories: Ethiopian, Howard University, Restaurant Reviews, U Street
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May 08, 2005

Harambe

Well, it finally happened -- For the first time I, Jason Storch, actually enjoyed an Ethiopian meal. For those of you that think I don't actually pay attention to comments, well..you're wrong. Back when I posted about Zed's, a couple people, through comments and emails, told me about Harambe in Adams Morgan. I noticed it again last weekend when I ate next store to it at El Tamarindo, so this week, I decided to give it a try since it's Mother's Day weekend and mother-to-be Amy loves Ethiopian food. (It turns out though, that Harambe is Eritrean, not strictly Ethiopian.)

I was a little hesitant to try Harambe, as are many people when they see a restaurant with no one in it. Last week when I looked in the window, there were maybe two tables taken. This week, as we approached the restaurant, there was only a single table with people at it.

"OK. Appearances aren't everything," I told myself as I opened the front door.

The restaurant is sparsly decorated -- the space has an old eclectic feel, but the furniture has a modern spin on it. Candles line the walls, but none of them are lit. In the rear of the restaurant by the bar, there was a single bar table with a group of men smoking by it, most likely friends of the manager with whom they were talking non-stop. Perhaps they were the owners or friends of the owner. Pretty much the whole night, one person would leave, and then about five minutes later, another would appear, they'd all greet him happily and bring out some food for him. Some smooth jazz played over the sound system.

The menu was pretty small -- no desserts that I could see -- Maybe they're on a separate menu. Also, the first page had pasta on it of all things, which I found really weird...at first. There were only three appetizers: Sambusas, chicken or beef soup, and Azifa (lentil salad). Under the appetizers is a section for pasta. On the menu it says "Experience this Italian favorite improved upon by influences from the east." Thinking back now, I probably should have at least ordered the pasta for $6 to see what it was like, but the ignorance of my white-suburban upbringing reared it's ugly head, causing me to raise an eyebrow and say, "There's something not right about pasta on an Ethiopian restaurant's menu." At that point Amy (with her photographic memory) recalled that almost all of the desserts on the menus at Meskerem and Zed's are Italian.

"Maybe there's an Italian influence in Ethiopia that we don't know about," she stated. It turns out, she was right. In 1889, Italy had significant influence over Ethiopia through a treaty where Italy thought that Ethiopia was its protectorate. Ethiopia, however, had a differing opinion and when Italy tried to invade Ethiopia in 1896, Ethiopia fought back the invaders. Through another treaty, Italy was allowed to keep a base in Eritrea. Then in 1991, Eritrea gained it's independance from Ethiopia and there have been ongoing border disputes between the two countries ever since. Since Harambe serves Eritrean food, perhaps the reason that they have pasta on their menu is because they had the greatest Italian influence due to the base being located there. It's amazing what you can learn from food. OK. Enough with the history lesson already.

The rest of the menu is traditional Ethiopian, or should I say Eritrean fare (I'm starting to get confused myself). Tibbs, FitFit, Wat, Kitfo, Gored Gored, all with slightly differently spelled names than other similar places we've eaten at. We ended up ordering a couple vegetarian sambusas, Harambe Tibbs (small morsels of steak in a sauce with onions, tomatos and jalapenos), Dorho (typically Doro Watt at other Ethiopian restaurants -- chicken in a garlic, onion and ginger sauce with a hard-boiled egg), and Shiro (pureed chick peas and mixed vegetables). The sambusas were rather good and probably better than other sambusas I've had. The outside crust was light and flakey and the inside filling, made with lentils, onions, and jalapenos, was juicy and spicy. One thing Harambe likes to put in their food more than anything else is fresh jalapenos and I appreciated the extra spice they added to each of the dishes.

Our entrees were all very good as well. The beef in the Harambe Tibbs was tender and all of the ingredients seemed fresh. I didn't get the sense that our dishes were sitting on a stove all night waiting for us to order them.  As with the sambusas, the entrees were adequately spiced. A nice balance was added to the meal with the Shiro which was sweet and complemented the other two spicier dishes.The only complaint that we had was that the Shiro was completely pureed and smooth and we would have liked a little texture to it, but I think it was served as it is actually supposed to be.  Compared with the Tibbs, the Dorho was a little bland. Entrees were served with a variety of vegetable sides (collards, spinach, cabbage, etc.), all of which were nice compliments to the main courses.

I tried a new beer called Asmara. It's brewed in the city of Asmara in Eritria. It had a creamy, hoppy flavor to it that matched the spicyness of the food rather well. This was the first place I've been to where I saw this beer being served. Don't even bother with the wine menu at Harambe. Most of the wines are those that you find at the local corner store in your neighborhood. The good news is that you wont find them charging $30 of the $5 bottle of Sutter Home Merlot -- it's more like $12.

As usual, we ordered way too much food and left a lot on the plate when we were done. Something about the injera just fills us up really fast. Of course, we didn't order any dessert. Our service was typical of and Ethiopian restaurant: not really quick and we had a hard time understanding our waitress, but it's all part of the atmosphere I guess. The manager came around to check on us at one point in the meal, which was nice. Now on to the financials...

Most of the entrees are only $9 - the most expensive being the combination dishes that are $13. Vegetarian entress are only $6! This was an extremely economical meal for us at $41 where we ordered three entrees, two appetizers, and I had two beers. Overall I wasn't completely blown away by this meal,  but it was one of the better Ethiopian places I've eaten at, and that says a lot.

Harambe
1771 U Street NW (corner of U and 18th)
Washington, DC
Map
(202) 332-6435

Dress Code: Casual
Parking: Street Parking - Good luck with that in Adams Morgan
Reservations: You don't need them
Smoking: I saw people smoking by the bar
Amy's Bathroom Rating: Old and run-down but clean and well-stocked.
Nearest Metro: Dupont Circle

Continue reading "Harambe"

Categories: Adams Morgan, Ethiopian, Italian, Restaurant Reviews, U Street
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Oct 18, 2004

Dukem

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?
jasewyndu: yep
Mike: want to do some dinner?
jasewyndu: sure!
Mike: ray's?
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
jasewyndu: cool
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
jasewyndu: wow
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.

Dukem
1114 U St., NW
Washington, DC, 20009
(202) 667-8735
Map

Hours:
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."
Reservations Accepted
Dukem Web Site

Categories: Ethiopian, Restaurant Reviews, U Street
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Mar 27, 2004

Meskerem

I have to admit, Ethiopian food is not my favorite. I find it pretty boring because all the food pretty much tastes the same to me. Amy, however, loves it. The other night, we went over to Adams Morgan to try Cities again but to our disappointment, they were closed (Cities is closed until April to prepare for their yearly change in menu). Right next-door to Cities, is Meskerem (I wonder if Amy knew that Cities was closed :)). I had been putting off getting Ethiopian food for a while now. Pretty much every time we go out, Amy brings up the idea of either going to Zed's or Meskerem, and I find an excuse not to go. There was no excuse this time.

Continue reading "Meskerem"

Categories: Adams Morgan, Ethiopian, Restaurant Reviews
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