Ethiopic (Washington DC)
So I just spent 5 busy and wonderful days in Washington DC visiting Lauren in her new city. It was the first time I’d been to DC as an adult and not in the company of my classmates and chaperones. It was nice to have to freedom to do whatever I wanted to. Although that was usually just seeing touristy stuff, eating, and shopping. So basically all the same things I did on my 11th grade field trip (only this time I added alcohol and Starbucks).
Since I’d never had Ethiopian food before (and Lauren suddenly got all adventurous with her palate now that she’s a big fancy DC gal), we went to what she claimed was the “best Ethiopian restaurant in DC.” We were joined for dinner by Lauren’s roommate Ashley, and my childhood friend Monika. We had 9:15 reservations, and the place was pretty packed when we got there. First, let me talk about the bread. This is one of those restaurants, like Moroccan, where you don’t eat with silverware, you use your hands and bread as utensils. The bread at Ethiopic was unlike any other bread I’ve ever eaten before. It tasted kind of sour, and had a spongy consistency not unlike play-doh. It was good, but also kind of weird. Not sure if this is what it’s like at all Ethiopian restaurants, but I’d imagine this kind of bread is pretty typical of Ethiopian cuisine–heavy, easy to eat, and I’m pretty sure it expands in your stomach to make you fuller faster.
To start, Monika and I ordered the Azifa (lentil salad seasoned with red onions, garlic, jalapeno peppers, olive oil, lemon juice, herbs & spices), which probably tasted delicious, but I wouldn’t know because it was literally THE SPICIEST THING I’VE EVER EATEN IN MY LIFE. Which wouldn’t have been as big of a deal, if our waitress didn’t disappear for most of the time, leaving my water glass empty. I felt like a fire breathing dragon. Monika thought it was great and ate most of it. I stuck mainly to the weird play-doh bread, because it hadn’t betrayed my trust the way the lentils did.
Lauren and Ashley got the Timatim (fresh diced tomatoes, onions, garlic, jalapeno pepper, olive oil, lemon juice & spices) to start, and also had the same complaint about it being spicy. Lauren said when she got it last time, it wasn’t nearly as spicy. She thought maybe because we had a later dinner time, they prepared all the appetizers ahead of time and just let them stew in their own juices. Which makes sense, because I usually can handle jalapenos ok.
For main courses, Monika and I got the Ethiopic Signature Tibs (tender boneless leg of lamb marinated & sauteed with red onions, garlic, jalapeno pepper, fresh tomato, rosemary, herbs & spices served sizzling hot). I ordered the appetizer and my entree at the same time, so I ended up being really worried that my lamb was going to be inedibly spicy, but it actually was perfect. Very mild and flavorful, not fatty at all–some of the best lamb I’ve ever eaten. All of the flavors really came together well, and I loved the big fresh sprigs of rosemary with the rest of the vegetables (although I avoided eating anymore jalapenos to prevent future mouth fires). I almost smacked the waitress in the face when she brought a little dish of “spicy chile sauce in case the lamb isn’t spicy enough.” STOP TRYING TO BURN MY TASTEBUDS OFF OF MY TONGUE.
Lauren and Ashley split the vegetarian sampler #1 which consisted of gomen (fresh collard green simmered in mild sauce seasoned with spice and herbs. Mild.), miser wot (split lentils simmered in spicy hot berbere sauce. Spicy), kik aletcha (yellow split peas simmered in a mild and flavorful onion and herb sauce. Mild.), dinich wot (curried potato simmered with red onions, garlic, jalapeno peppers, olive oil, fresh herbs & spices). I thought it was really cool that the used the bread as a plate for the different vegetarian dishes. I really liked the collards, although they kind of surprised me a bit. Being from the south, I’m used to eating collards a certain way, and this was very different. Still good, though! I also liked the yellow and red lentil dishes, although the red one was a bit spicy. I didn’t get to try the potatoes but Ashley said she really liked those, so I’ll take her word for it.
We didn’t get dessert because we were so full (it’s that bread, man, I swear). But I did try a glass of Ethiopian red wine, which was good, but kind of bitter for my taste. When the check came, I was surprised at how inexpensive everything was. I’d definitely go back here again and get the lamb tibs (and try to avoid all of the outrageously spicy stuff). I’d definitely recommend Ethiopic if you’re ever near H-Street in Washington DC!
401 H St NE
Washington, DC 20002