I started to panic as my birthday approached: not only about whether to book a reservation at Komi, but also whether to organize a celebratory dinner with friends (ah, the plight of being a foodie). What restaurant would be able to accommodate a big group? And what type of cuisine would be fun and interesting for everyone to try? And where would I get a birthday cake!??!? These were the questions racing through my mind.
Luckily, the Washingtonian Cheap Eats Guide saved the day once again. I’d heard a lot of buzz about Ethiopic when it opened a few months back, and a quick glance through the Washingtonian showed they recommend it for “big groups who like to share.” Perfect for a birthday party, I thought. The next day, I called the restaurant and booked a reservation.
Ethiopic’s shabby exterior belies its classy interior. Polished hardwood floors, dim lighting, and columns wrapped in tribal-designed fabric make the small dining room seem intimate and more inviting. The only drawback was the temperature–it was pretty toasty inside, but that could be due to the fact that it was over 100 degrees outside.
To start off, we ordered 3 appetizers to share (which unfortunately, I forgot to take photos of!): azifa (cold lentil salad), buticha (smashed chickpeas, almost like an Ethiopian version of hummus), and key sir (beets and potatoes). All 3 of the dishes were served cold and eaten with Etihopia’s ubiquitous spongey bread, injera. What surprised me most about these salads was the heat and spice they were able to pack into each bite. Even the beets were spicy! And yet, the spice didn’t overwhelm and the integrity of the ingredients remained in tact: the sweetness of the beets, heartiness of the lentils, and earthiness of the chickpeas. Each of these appetizers ranged from $5-7, and were a filling and flavorful start to the meal.
For our main courses, we ordered a vegetarian sampler (pictured left, above) and a beef and chicken sampler (pictured right above). Sampler platters cost $30-35 each and serve 3-4 people. Now, I’ll be quite honest: I wasn’t entirely sure what each dish on the platter was. All I knew was that everything tasted delicious–and very smoky and spicy. I may not have the most discerning palate when it comes to Ethiopian food, but I do know that my friends and I thoroughly enjoyed our food–and couldn’t stop ourselves from sopping up the different sauces with more and more injera bread. I also felt the flavors at Ethiopic were bolder and more pronounced than at other Ethiopian restaurants I’ve been to.
There was one dish that really stood out in my mind though: their signature lamb tibs ($16). Boneless leg of lamb is quickly sauteed with red onions, garlic, jalepenos, tomatoes, and rosemary, and served tableside in a sizzling pot. The lamb was tender and flavorful, and like all the other dishes, spicy as heck. But in contrast to the other meat dishes, the flavor of the meat really shined through and enhanced the dish.
Service was very accommodating, offering very helpful suggestions on what to order for a big group. We did have trouble getting our water refilled at times, but otherwise, I thought the wait staff was excellent. And, they were even nice enough to let us bring in a birthday cake! (Purchased from Whole Foods for $25.99–I highly recommend their strawberries and cream cake!)
Thanks to Ethiopic for a memorable birthday and a wonderful meal!
401 H St NE
Washington, DC 20002