When people talk about eating in Little Ethiopia, they invariably mention Messob (that basket on the left is a messob table), Rosalind's and Merkato. Oddly, I've never heard anyone talk about eating at Little Ethiopia, one of the newer restaurants along the Fairfax block that hosts several restaurants from the region. So when Citybeat restaurant critic Richard Foss convened his Periodic Table dining group at Little Ethiopia, with wine pairing no less, I decided to check it out. The erudite Richard's gatherings are considerably more ambitious than the Chinese dining groups we sometimes convene -- in addition to wine pairings, with glasses he totes to the restaurant, there's a presentation from the restaurant owner about the cuisine or the history of the country, as well as live entertainment -- in this case, on the masenko. And there were around 50 people at several round tables, which is quite a job to organize. We started with the traditional Ethiopian mead wine called tej, a sweet but pleasant aperitif that reminded me of pineau des charentes. After appetizers of sambussas -- basically samosas with flakier wonton-wrapper style wrappers -- we moved on to the extensive buffet with all the saucy Ethiopian favorites like lamb (yebeg siga alicha) and chicken (yedero wot). I really liked the savory lentils with a slightly peppier sauce than the meat dishes, and the finely-chopped collard greens (right).
For some reason it's been donkey's ages since I've had Ethiopian food, so I can't really say whether Little Ethiopia is better or worse than its Fairfax brethren, but it certainly has plenty of room for a large group, and the lentils rock. Unfortunately, we had to leave early, and missed the final course of port and baklava, plus the Ethiopian dancing demonstration. But I've vowed that I'm not going to let decades pass before trying Ethiopian food again, and I probably I need to explore some other dishes, since some of the sauces do tend to have a certain sameiness. Also, scooping up a whole plate of food with injera bread is pretty filling -- perhaps better to ask for a fork next time.
Little Ethiopia Ethiopian Restaurant
1048 S. Fairfax Avenue