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Etete, Chef Christopher Roberson on 9th and U Streets, Little Ethiopia


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mama desta's restaurant on georgia avenue is the first taste of ethiopian cuisine i recall a couple of decades ago, and we had some favorites in adams morgan for a while before eventually tiring of the food. but reading todd kliman has rekindled our interest, and our initial return to ethiopian revealed that there are once again some new things happening in these kichens, whose origins in washington were full of novelty.

we thought we would be eating at his favorite ethiopian restaurant in the area last night, sodere. finding it closed, we turned the corner of ninth and u to find etete just a couple of doors down. this is a narrow restaurant, with eight tables for two and a few tables with bar stools and a small bar. its furnishings are surprisingly contemporary, and it has the appearance of wanting to be half a bar hangout, although the selections, which include alcohol, are a bit limited. i had a harrar beer, which was very mellow and i would say it had a note of honey. it was a good accompaniment to the food.

we ordered a fasten vegetable sampler that included good renditions of greens, lentils, potatoes and carrots, and a small lettuce and tomato salad that was a bit out of place. the centerpiece of our meal was tikul, a mound of ground (whipped) beef, and it stole the show. soft, buttery, (my wife thinks cheesy) and with a mysterious (to us) spice, with a great, unique flavor.

lentil sambusas were soft and slow-burn spicy, and the injera had a more interesting, tripe-ish texture than the smoother versions served in the old days.

the waitresses here are glamorous and nice, although they may not have enough command of the english language to tell you what's in your beef. for that, you might attempt to get the answer from the chef herself, who was totally engrossed in her preparations from what we could see through the swinging door to the kitchen at the end of the room. i'm not sure who's allowed to invade the kitchen, but one customer did, probably a regular or friend or relative, dressed up as some sort of chieftain, and he exited back through the restaurant a bit later with a big plastic bag of carry out.

the disappearing into the kitchen for extended periods includes the waitresses, who are apologetic about their long absences without really having to be. we were well aware that we had entered another time zone, and appreciated the leisurely pace. a solitary diner, on the other hand, was in and out quickly.

on a sunday night, there were about a dozen customers over an hour-and-a-half span. outside and after dark, this may not be the safest neighborhood to be strolling around in, but there is a metro station just one block away if you're worried.

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Not sure there will be a line out the door here on a rainy Tuesday. 

It would have been very easy to get a table last night - if they had been open.

After spending two hours and fifteen minutes in the car for a drive that should have taken an hour I arrived an hour late in a heavy rain to find a restaurant sealed tighter and darker than <insert your own lewd metaphor here>. It turns out that the Porcupines whent the smart route and gave up due to the traffic and Lydia had been and gone a little before me.

I ended up at the friendly, lively bar at Etete a few doors down and had lentil sambusa and derek tibs. I particularly liked the sambusa - an empanada type pastry with a lightly spicy lentil mixture. The derek tibs - beef chunks cooked with onions, peppers and tomatoes - was good, but I'm not completely sold on the injera. I liked it at first when it was slightly warm, but a third of the way in I was stuck with a choice between cold injera from a basket or soggy and cold injera from the platter.

Bottom line - it's a far cry better than "Pre-chewed food on a sour sponge". But I'm looking to give the whole thing another chance where I can try other items before I give it my full endorsement.

Edited by bilrus
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we thought we would be eating at his favorite ethiopian restaurant in the area last night, sodere. finding it closed, we turned the corner of ninth and u to find etete just a couple of doors down.

Interesting that both Etete reports were the result of Sodere being closed. :lol:

Edited by bilrus
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Interesting that both Etete reports were the result of Sodere being closed.  :lol:

I've eaten at both, plus Queen Makeda across the street. Etete is the best of the lot IMO, in terms of both food and decor, tho QM (is it still open??) is/was more "homey," with Mama in the kitchen making what she does best and bringing it out to serve you. Sodere is fine, but I would pick either of the others first. Any of them is preferable to Dukem in my book, which is not to say Dukem is bad just that the others are better.

Should anyone go to QM, I would advise ignoring the menu and just asking for what's good that day, and leave it in Mama's capable hands.

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I've eaten at both, plus Queen Makeda across the street. 

When I was waiting outside the closed Sodere for Bilrus and the Porcupines, I wondered whether an alternate location had been declared and, sadly, saw that Queen Makeda's was closed too.

Is there a pattern to these closures OR do we need to call everytime?

Sorry Bilrus, Ethiopian is definitely a cuisine meant for sharing with as large a group of people as you can tolerate. I don't think I've ever eaten it alone...

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When I was waiting outside the closed Sodere for Bilrus and the Porcupines, I wondered whether an alternate location had been declared and, sadly, saw that Queen Makeda's was closed too.

Is there a pattern to these closures OR do we need to call everytime?

Sorry Bilrus, Ethiopian is definitely a cuisine meant for sharing with as large a group of people as you can tolerate. I don't think I've ever eaten it alone...

As I mentioned elsewhere, a 2nd failed attempt at dining at Sodere resulted in a 2nd successful attempt at dining at Etete.

This time it was a firey beef dish with berbere sauce that made my insides warm all afternoon and about melted the skin out of my boss' mouth. Tete, the chef (and owner/namesake?) asked how everything was and brought the boss several non-spicy veg dishes to make up for the fact that he couldn't eat the original dish. Very sweet gesture.

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Enjoyed a nice dinner at Etete last night. It's cute inside, more upscale than I imagined. Being relative Ethiopian food novices, my group relied somewhat on our waitress for ordering advice. We ended up with 3 lentil sambusas to start. I'd skip these next time - the spicing of the lentils was nice, but they were pretty heavy/greasy to start with. For the main course, 3 of us "fastening foods" (a.k.a. veggie combo platter) and 3 meat dishes. We thought we only asked for 2 meats, but ended up with (and paying for 3)...oh well, that's what you get when you ask for help ordering I suppose. We had 2 beef dishes, one being the derek tibs (doesn't that sound like it should be a football player's name?), and a spicier stewed lamb dish that was a big hit. All of the veggies were very good - 2 lentil dishes, greens, cabbage, potato/carrot stew, salad, and a few others I can't remember. In all we paid a little more than I expected, but also had way more food than we needed. I'd definitely come back here when an Ethiopian craving hits.

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We thought we only asked for 2 meats, but ended up with (and paying for 3)...oh well, that's what you get when you ask for help ordering I suppose.

etete is in a foreign language and i don't think most non-ethiopians can feel entirely comfortable that they speak it. this restaurant also provides a bit of a travel experience. the miscommunication here goes both ways, and i have been steered to items i hadn't intended to order. also, the menu can function differently than you might be used to; you don't always get exactly what's described. for me, the uncertainties are part of the attraction. however, i always feel that i am in reliable hands and that the kitchen knows what it's doing when it makes substitutions. after a few visits, i have yet to be disappointed in the food at etete. i have yet to try the tripe and find out what the italian alternatives are about. i was a bit annoyed by the lettuce and tomato salad that showed up the first time i ordered the fastening foods, but even that came to life the last two times i ordered it.

Edited by giant shrimp
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I've dined at Ethiopian restaurants a few times in the 10 years I've lived in DC and I've always enjoyed it. But mostly, I think it was enjoyable just for the novelty factor of using food as an eating utensil and the communal aspect of sharing dinner with a group of friends. This changed Friday night with my first visit to Etete. I thoroughly enjoyed the food itself this time around. Lamb, beef, and chicken were all delicious along with the numerous veggie preparations. And those lentil samosa-like doohickeys were excellent. I'm glad I found this place-- I'll be back soon.

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And those lentil samosa-like doohickeys were excellent.

I really like the doohickeys too. Although on the few times I've been there, they've never had the beef doohickeys (sambusa?) which I would imagine a very good too.

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Etete has moved up pretty high on my current "must eat at" list. Although the service can be slow (I actually think that our waitress just forgot enter our order on Saturday), the food is great! Certainly some of the best Ethiopian food being served in DC right now.

Lackadaisi and I always get the "Fastening" dish (a sampling of different vegetable/salad/lentil dishes that rings the large injera-covered platter that dinner arrives on) and then a meat dish to add to the center. Saturday night we were with another couple and it was the Duro Wat (excellently spiced fall-of-the-bone chicken dish with the odd but tasty hard-boiled egg) and the Derek Tibs (a beef dish with carmelized onions and tomato) that graced the center spot-light of our platter.

I have found most Ethiopian food to be a bit on the greasy side, but not at Etete. The "stews" are full of flavor and texture, the injera is soft and inviting (but not too spongy or neoprene-like), and the Ethiopian beers are quite nice for a hot summer evening (especially the St. George's Lager). Not a big fan of the honey wine - a bit too sweet with a quite un-pleaseant nose - but maybe its worth a try just for the novelty of it.

As others have posted - it's open late too!

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Etete has moved up pretty high on my current "must eat at" list. Although the service can be slow (I actually think that our waitress just forgot enter our order on Saturday), the food is great! Certainly some of the best Ethiopian food being served in DC right now.

Lackadaisi and I always get the "Fastening" dish (a sampling of different vegetable/salad/lentil dishes that rings the large injera-covered platter that dinner arrives on) and then a meat dish to add to the center. Saturday night we were with another couple and it was the Duro Wat (excellently spiced fall-of-the-bone chicken dish with the odd but tasty hard-boiled egg) and the Derek Tibs (a beef dish with carmelized onions and tomato) that graced the center spot-light of our platter.

I have found most Ethiopian food to be a bit on the greasy side, but not at Etete. The "stews" are full of flavor and texture, the injera is soft and inviting (but not too spongy or neoprene-like), and the Ethiopian beers are quite nice for a hot summer evening (especially the St. George's Lager). Not a big fan of the honey wine - a bit too sweet with a quite un-pleaseant nose - but maybe its worth a try just for the novelty of it.

As others have posted - it's open late too!

everything is slower paced here, including the cooking. earlier saturday night became crowded halfway through the meal, then they turned off the electricity (and the lights and the television and air conditioning) to address the problem of burning plastic, and a meltdown was conceivable by the time we left. first-timers were having some problems figuring things out, but the waitresses were reassuring, about as relaxed as you can be, even under the adverse circumstances.

meat plus the fastening plate is the way to go, though we find tikul hard to resist in the center. it's a bit strange, so if you don't like the tej...well, i would still try it. we still have a long way to go in our exploration of the menu. you know you are nearing the finish line when you start ordering the italian items.

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everything is slower paced here, including the cooking. earlier saturday night became crowded halfway through the meal, then they turned off the electricity (and the lights and the television and air conditioning) to address the problem of burning plastic, and a meltdown was conceivable by the time we left. first-timers were having some problems figuring things out, but the waitresses were reassuring, about as relaxed as you can be, even under the adverse circumstances.

meat plus the fastening plate is the way to go, though we find tikul hard to resist in the center. it's a bit strange, so if you don't like the tej...well, i would still try it. we still have a long way to go in our exploration of the menu. you know you are nearing the finish line when you start ordering the italian items.

Usually we are not in a rush when we go, but we kinda were last time... Although sometims slow, I find the service there very warm and friendly-and certainly not something we really consider when thinking about the tibs! :unsure: We have yet to try the raw lamb dish, but are working up to it. We will try the tikul next time. I have found Ethiopian Italian food to be quite interesting, but not something I crave. Those colonial relationships of cultures have produced some strange dishes!
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Thanks to Heather for arranging our dinner - there were 12 of us at the $20 Tuesday last night. We were at one long table and decided to order in three groups of four people each. Our group ordered the lentil "samosas" and three mains: the vegetarian platter, a lamb and the beef short ribs. The samosas and first two mains were wonderfully tasty and satisfying. The short ribs were really dismal (not braised - they were dessicated gristly little bits of beef that had been baked to a faretheewell and adhered stubbornly to the bones.) The vegetarian sampler had about 10 different items arranged around the perimiter of the injera, and the lamb and short ribs were mounded in the middle.

We probably could have ordered another main, but with the injera swelling up inside us, we felt satisfied with what really amounted to two. Service was very good. The beer selection last night consisted of one kind of Ethiopian (not honey or St. George) and it tasted like Budlite. After one of those, I switched to Guinness.

Total damage including two beers, tax and tip: $24. Ethiopian is definitely the kind of food that is meant to be shared - perfect for a $20 Tuesday. Thanks again Heather!

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We also got a couple of the lentil samosas and liked them - the spices started subtle but crept up after the second bite, and the exterior was crisp and not greasy. The injera was definitely better than the injera at Addis Ababa, and while it was nice to have the veggie sampler, I would have been happy to skip the salad and a couple of other items and order more of the delicious, not overcooked collard greens.

Our group of four ordered the vegatarian sampler and two mains, and that seemed to be enough. It seems like the main dishes vary in size. Our check came $14 each.

Would anyone like to try Abiti sometime in April?

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Crappy Ethiopian beer which tasted like Bud Light $5.50 (Think it was called Bhatti)

Guiness in a bottle $3.50

you do the math

otherwise what Crakers said.

Etete very much unlike the other Ethopian restaurants that I have tried, which consists of the places in Adams Morgan. The AM places follow the typical ethnic route of making you feel like you are in an ethnic restaurant (not that there is anything wrong with that), while Etete's decor much like a small minimal neighborhood bistro type feel, little tables, artsy chairs, little hightop tables along the wall for two. It was a very enjoyable meal, lovely food (other than the crappy short ribs), and you can't beat the prices (other than the crappy Ethiopain beer).

Our table of 12 dominated the restaurant, we were receiving more than our fair share of evil eyes from customers waiting for tables.

The other fun aspect was seeing the block in obvious transition, mostly shacky store fronts, yet just down the street was a new looking Italian place, all hard wood floors and tea light candles which wouldn't have looked out of place in Dupont.

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Crappy Ethiopian beer which tasted like Bud Light $5.50 (Think it was called Bhatti)

Guiness in a bottle $3.50

you do the math

Did you notice if they had the Harar Hakim Stout? I remember this being the only fairly decent Ethiopian beer, and the last Ethiopian place I went to didn't have it (Meskerem)

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Since they only had Bhatti in stock, I didn't really look at the list hard, but I don't recall seeing it. They had maybe 5 Ethiopian beers on the list...St. George was one. The non-ethiopian beers were your standard list of Becks, Corona, Budweiser, Miller etc. Guiness was the best thing flowing.

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Did you notice if they had the Harar Hakim Stout? I remember this being the only fairly decent Ethiopian beer, and the last Ethiopian place I went to didn't have it (Meskerem)

the harar is unavailable more often than it is available. when it's not, we order glasses (small bottles) of the tej. i think it goes well with the food, but not everybody likes it. the bar can fix fairly decent mixed drinks too.

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I would have been happy to skip the salad and a couple of other items and order more of the delicious, not overcooked collard greens.

i have always viewed the salad as a peculiar addition. sometimes, though, and not always, it is really good. a couple of times, when we ordered just the greens, we were told they didn't have them. did anyone try the tikul? based on the last time we ordered that, one of our favorites, you may have to ask for it to be spicy these days.

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Was there anything that you guys ate last night that would be a must order for one trying Ethiopian for the second time ever? Anything that was delicious? I've only eaten Ethiopian food once, in St.Louis, and it wasn't a great experience... From that one time, I surmised that Ethiopian may not be for me, but I have a slight itch to try it again since it's so prevalent here.

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I think the best option is to do the veggie sampler, which allows you to try 5 or 6 of the veggie dishes. and then get a meat course or two. People seemed to enjoy the special kitfo, which is best described as the Ethiopian beef tartar, but it looked like you could get served rare, medium, & well. The lamb dishes all looked good.

To me Ethiopian is much better experienced when you have multiple little tastes (ie: like you get with the combo) rather than just ordering one dish.

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Lackadaisi and I always get the "Fastening" dish (a sampling of different vegetable/salad/lentil dishes that rings the large injera-covered platter that dinner arrives on) and then a meat dish to add to the center.

I Googled "fastening dish Ethiopian," and almost everything comes up Etete. On their website, it's listed as "Fasteing Food" - do they actually mean that it fastens down the injera? If so, then this is a funny visual.

Either way, the meal wouldn't be complete without it. The Doro Wat, at something like $12, consists of one 25-cent leg of chicken and a hard-boiled egg, but it's still worth getting just to try the Berbere sauce (which has so much hoodoo in it that it's hard to believe it's vegetarian, but I think it may be).

Lega Tibs this time around were strippy pieces of tough-cut lamb, cooked into oblivion and not saved by the sauce.

Raw Kitfo was a good, hearty portion of minced meat - zesty, flavorful, and darned near purple in color from the mitmita.

Eliminate any notion of a quiet nosh after 11 PM on weekends, as the stereo is bone-rattling.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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I Googled "fastening dish Ethiopian," and almost everything comes up Etete. On their website, it's listed as "Fasteing Food" - do they actually mean that it fastens down the injera? If so, then this is a funny visual.

i was calling it "fastening" at first, but then it dawned on me it was "fasting." on the menu i don't think they refer to it that way anymore, though there are still some typos. the dulet is a lamb "trip," for instance.

still have a hard time passing up the tikul, though it is not quite as mysterious as when we first encountered it here. the red pepper is applied directly to the injera these days, instead of being mixed in earlier with the beef. and one or two times melted butter was mixed into the beef at the table. also three small heaps of different flavored cottage cheeses accompany it.

they had just cleared out the dining room with some serious incense before our early arrival the other night. i am talking gift of the magi.

[thanks to going to etete, we have discovered an interesting fact about the 96 mclean gardens bus, which we catch by the side of the cathedral. heading back, it is not uncommon to see a 96 duke ellington bridge bus, which is where most of the routes heading northwest along u street terminate. however, the destination of this bus is actually mclean gardens. i am sure we let this bus go by a few times before we eventually caught on. about a week ago, a 92 duke ellington bridge bus was discharging passengers at the stop and a woman asked the driver when the mclean gardens bus was coming. this is the mclean gardens bus, he informed her. after boarding, i told him that i was familiar with the 96 duke ellington bus trick, but this was the first time the number was also disguised. the woman who made the inquiry said she had a theory about this bus line, but would not divulge it. i don't think she knows about etete.]

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i was calling it "fastening" at first, but then it dawned on me it was "fasting." on the menu i don't think they refer to it that way anymore, though there are still some typos. the dulet is a lamb "trip," for instance.
I should have read your post first.

(Thanks for the bus information.)

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Had a very nice meal at the cozy Etete last night. We started with 2 lentil-filled sambusas pockets - the dough was a nice cross between a flaky boreka and a chewy empanada. Note the menu is slightly different than the menu on the website - there were no beef sambusas. They were alittle greasy but had a nice flavor and were pretty filling. 2 people could definitely share one. Then we had the vegetarian combo platter and added 2 meat dishes: the lamb Lega Tibs and the beef Yeawaze Tibs. The lamb was well done and only so so because it lacked seasoning which was only helped a bit by the onions and jalapenos. However, that was the only disappointment, the beef was awesome. Very tender chunks with a spicy tomatoey sauce. The veggie items were really good too, especially the cooling cabbage-like one and the red lentils. The injera bread was thinner and less sour than I have before and went great with the stews. There were 3 of us and this was a lot of food. We probably could have gotten by without the sambusas and just the veggie combo and one meat dish. It is deceptive because there are these little piles of dishes, but when combined with all of the bread to scoop them up you can get filled up pretty fast. The service was friendly but a bit absent minded - after a few requests they managed to fill 2 of the 3 empty water glasses at the table. Overall a nice, hearty meal with different flavors - exactly what you want from an ethnic restaurant.

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a new upstairs dining room was open on friday night for a spillover crowd that was well on its way to filling it up by the time we left. (strong liturgical incense was burning furiously when we first arrived.) the long room is almost a mirror image of downstairs, but updated and surprisingly beautiful, with a gallery's worth of large collage-leaning mordant pieces by a local ethiopian artist. haile selassie was presiding in the distance. leaning over our table at the edge of the stairwell was a mary and infant jesus scene populated by mysteriously unhappy women, maybe enraged or jealous. they are all for sale, we were told, but cost a lot of injera so my guess is they will stay up for a long time.

the food was as good as ever, though the kitchen was moving faster than usual. the lentil filling in the sambusa was hot. then it was on to tikul and a fasting platter, the former canceling out the intentions of the latter with butter and browned ground beef leaning in the direction of wanting to be whipped with cottage cheeses and chili powder. i believe it costs $4 to have a fish thrown in with the stewed vegetables.

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then it was on to tikul and a fasting platter, the former canceling out the intentions of the latter with butter and browned ground beef leaning in the direction of wanting to be whipped with cottage cheeses and chili powder. i believe it costs $4 to have a fish thrown in with the stewed vegetables.
Last time I was there the table next to us ordered the vegetable fasting platter with the fish and it is not chunks of cooked fish that I would have expected, but rather a whole, small-medium, grilled (I think) fish which looked plenty meaty. Another reason this place is a great bargain.
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Last time I was there the table next to us ordered the vegetable fasting platter with the fish and it is not chunks of cooked fish that I would have expected, but rather a whole, small-medium, grilled (I think) fish which looked plenty meaty. Another reason this place is a great bargain.
Unless they've changed it recently the fish is fried, not grilled. It's scored crossways which could be why it appears grilled at a distance. And it's pretty tasty.
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Unless they've changed it recently the fish is fried, not grilled. It's scored crossways which could be why it appears grilled at a distance. And it's pretty tasty.
You are probably correct about it being fried, I did see the scoring which made me think grilled.
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Went to Etete on Saturday night for a friend's birthday. We had Sambusas, Gomen Besega (seasoned beef cooked with collard greens, onion and garlic), and one of the Vegetarian Combos (Gomen (collard greens), Tekil Gomen (cabbage and carrot), Yekik Alicha (split peas), Yemisir Kik Wat (red lentils), and Yeataklit wat (carrots, potato and string beans) and Salad). Everything was enjoyable, although the flavor of our entrees didn't quite measure up to the spiciness of the sambusa. After the sambusas, we didn't eat much of the Yemisir Kik Wat, as we were lentiled-out, and because of the greens in the gomen besega, we pretty much ignored the collard greens on the vegetarian combo. The Yeataklit wat had a great sweet flavor, and the Yekik Alicha was also a highlight.

We followed up dinner with a dessert at Ben's, and as a word of caution ... if you eat injera and then follow it up with a milkshake, you will feel like you ate one of these:

http://www.funforalltoys.com/products/just_for_fun_4/magic_capsules/magic_capsules.html

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No posts about Etete since 2009?

Anyway, we had a groupon to blow so hit up Etete yesterday. The veggie combo platter was disappointing, no punch, no vibrancy, all rather bland. The sambusas were good. The fried fish excellent. But overall definitely not up to the quality Etete use to have.

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