Happy hump day folks! Hope everyone’s well, and that our US readers are getting excited for Thanksgiving tomorrow. My mom just arrived this afternoon, so I have spent the day showing her around my new digs.
Last Saturday, Kiley and I were on the hunt for an Ethiopian restaurant — we’d had Ethiopian in Philly a few times (at Queen of Sheba, West Philly and Cafe Almaz, Rittenhouse Square), and fell in love with the cuisine’s staples: the spongy, traditional injera bread (made from tef) and host of vegetarian and meat-based dishes that are served alongside.
This summer’s meal at Queen of Sheba, West Philadelphia
Anyway, back to last Saturday. Though I had heard a lot about U St.’s Dukem, Kiley spotted a local (read: Logan Circle area) joint with great reviews. Local = great. Local + positivie reviews + a bitterly cold evening? Even better : ) .
As soon as I stepped down and into Lalibela, I’d felt as though the city outside had melted away. The atmosphere was hushed, but welcoming, with smiling, accented waitresses and groups of Ethiopian men all around — some lining the bar, some seated in the back, chatting and laughing over a bottle of Johnny Walker. The decor was strikingly foreign in some respects, but familiar in others. Kiley and I were lucky to be seated at the far end of the room, sitting side-by-side at the back of the room so we could take it all in.
I began by ordering a glass of their honey white Ethiopian wine — which I really enjoyed. It was sweet, almost like a sherry, and complex (i’m no wino, but I could definitely distinguish several layers of flavor in there). For dinner, we went with the Taste of Lalibela special for two, for $25:
- siga wat (beef slowly cooked with onion fresh ginger garlic turmeric and spiced butter)
- yebag wat (lamb cooked in the same style)
- doro wat (chicken legs slowly cooked with onion fresh ginger garlic berbere chili sauce and spiced butter, served with hard-boiled egg)
- a choice of three vegetarian dishes (we chose the cabbage, gomen — collard greens, and one of the lentils)
Kiley digging in to the Taste of Lalibela special
As you may have noticed, the food isn’t served with utensils — so you have no choice but to use a piece of injera with each bite… *tragic* ; ) I don’t eat dark meat, but the chicken was amazing, and fell straight off the bone. Several of the dishes were pretty spicy, much to Kiley’s delight. All were beautifully seasoned and hearty; I left full and happy, and I couldn’t wait to return.
So I didn’t wait — I was lucky enough to return tonight, for my mom’s first dinner of her trip. I don’t go out to eat too much, so I usually like to try new restaurants when I have the chance… but Lalibela was calling my name and my date was gung-ho, too. I even sat in the same seat. This time, we ordered two vegetarian samplers (about $11 each). The waitress asked if we wanted one plate — which we assumed meant one each, all dishes on one plate each… Lo and behold, she brought out our two entrees on the same dish! Mine was in the middle, my mom’s all around.
Lalibela round 2
Of course, we shared it all. If getting to eat with your fingers and sample from several dishes weren’t fun enough, sharing makes Ethiopian even better.
As you probably see, I can highly recommend not only Lalibela — to the DC-area-ers — but the entire experience. If you ever have the chance to try Ethiopian food, do! You won’t regret it.