Thursday, November 29, 2007

Little Ethiopia with a crowd

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
(323) 930-2808


sku said...

Interesting report...I've never been to Little Ethiopia.

You should give Fassica, in Culver City, a try..better than anything I've had on Fairfax (Messob, Mercado, Genet, Rosalinds and Nyala are the ones I've been to).

Shiro, a chickpea paste, is my favorite Ethiopian dish and I really like the Fassica version, though I've never found a shiro as good as the place I used to go in New York.

Ellen Bloom said...

I live about 4 easy walking blocks to Little Ethiopia and haven't eaten there in over 16 years. Thanks for the review....I'll give it another try.

Xander said...

I can't began to describe my envy. The range of Ethiopian restaurants is by far one of the things I miss most about Los Angeles. I've never been to this one, but I'll certainly be dreaming about it until I make a return visit to LA.-X

Sara Kocher said...

I was there that evening (shy woman at table way in the back) and your description is making me hungry again...

The baklava was tasty, although no different from any good baklava. The dancing was quite interesting, though. Apparently, Ethiopian dance involves moving the shoulders in a rhythm completely separate from the body's movements. I tried it along a bunch of other diners (amazing how fast shy evaporates around Richard Foss!), but couldn't get the hang of it at all.

By the way, the restaurant has a web site complete with menu at

Full disclosure: I helped develop their web site, although I didn't design it. Hope you don't mind my including it here.