You guys, this week has been so long in the making! I know I’m a naturally dramatic person, but I swear more than a gal has ever sworn before that I am not exaggerating! This was actually the very first place I wanted to review this semester. One of my goals for this column is to expose local gems and fan favorites, and Addis Ababa is certainly a fan favorite from what I’ve so enthusiastically been told. I’ve been trying to plan this trip over for some supposedly grade A Ethiopian food with a couple of friends, but it just kept falling through for one reason or another. But, this week… magic was made.
Now, I had never attempted Ethiopian food prior to Addis Ababa, so I went in having absolutely no idea what really characterizes Ethiopian cuisine. Honestly, I still don’t, but I do know that I really enjoyed this outing — and not just because it turned into a super adorable mini cast party for a show I’m acting in. None of the seven of us, save one person that had been to Addis Ababa a few times before, had too great a familiarity with Ethiopian food, so we found ourselves quite confused reading the menu. But, through asking said minor league expert tons of questions and also through a tiny bit of panic ordering, I ended up requesting the Beef Fir-Fir. Additionally, my boyfriend Ryan and I agreed to share two entrees, and he ordered the Lamb-Yebeg We’t (Key We’t) to contribute to our meal.
“Lamb-Yebeg We’t (Key We’t)” is too much for my fingers to attempt to type this many times, so I’ll just be referring to it as “the lamb” from now on, but y’all will know what’s really up. That said, the lamb was so good. Like, so good. If I had to equate the flavor to something with which more people might be familiar, it would say that it had the consistency and, in some ways, the flavor of a Bolognese. Though the meat was in sort of mid-sized chunks, and not ground, the sauce that wrapped it all together had that bright, acidic, tomato-y taste and feel. I found the flavor pleasantly complex. At first, you’d get that tomato sauce taste, but a certain heat would hit a moment later in your throat after you swallowed. Nicely balanced, definitely not overwhelming. Now, this may be the only review in which you’ll read me say I enjoyed the dryness of the meat. The chunks of lamb were sturdy and a bit dried out, but this just allowed them to soak up more of that great sauce and to fall apart at the hands of it, giving the meat almost the consistency of a brisket — saucy and slightly chewy, but not unpleasantly so. It took me way back to my half-Jewish household. Who would have known I’d find some Ratatouille-style food-based nostalgia in an Ethiopian restaurant?
I found the Beef Fir-Fir, much like the lamb, to have a really well-crafted balance of flavor. There was plenty of seasoning and the taste from it was certainly prominent, but when I bit into a chunk of the beef, I would still get the beef flavor coming through very strongly. The seasoning added complexity to the beef and supported its natural flavor without overpowering it, which is impressive for such a heavily-seasoned dish. This dish was served on top of a large piece of injera — which I would describe as a very fluffy crepe with the exact taste of sourdough bread — and also had little cut-up bits of injera mixed into it. These bits of injera became wonderful little flavor bursts after soaking up all the surrounding goodness on the plate, but I could have done with a bit less of it. I loved the flavor of the beef so much, and I just wished there would have been more meat than injera. But, overall, I really enjoyed this dish too and have no complaints regarding the actual flavors or textures.
This was simply a great experience, and not just due to the great company. To write this review now, I’ve been reading through my little notebook of official notes that I take while I eat, and there are just food stains all over the page because I didn’t want to stop eating as I jotted. And the Addis Ababa staff was so warm and welcoming. Our waiter chatted with us and even recognized and said hello to my friend that had been in before. Also, with our meals, he brought out a complementary plate of vegan side dishes for us that consisted of what I believed to be a lentil mash, a chickpea mash, potato stew, and some sort of cooked greens — all really wonderful.
There’s so much enticing stuff on the menu that Ryan wasn’t feeling adventurous enough to share with me, so I will definitely be making at least one trip back to Addis Ababa. Ethiopian food? — more like… actually, I’ve got nothing. Well, I tried to end with some sort of pun, but there was really nothing there. Hit me up with something cheeky if you’ve got ideas. Bye guys, until next week.