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Zenebech Restaurant, Zenebech Dessu and Gebrehanna Demissie's Ethiopian - Reopen Aug 4, 2017 in Adams Morgan


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We ate there tonight on your recommendation. Thanks! We had two dishes, one a tibs (a dry beef stir fry) and the other something I'd never seen on an Ethiopian menu before. I think it was called Binatu, and it was one of two or three items without an English description, which intrigued me initially. It turned out to be torn injera soaked in a delicious gravy of some sort, mixed with beef, and topped with kitfo and cheese. It was quite a dish, and tasty! One small word of warning, when you ask for your kitfo cooked "medium" here, it means the beef touches a hot pan for a second or two at most...it was delicious, but about as rare as rare can be.

Good stuff...we'll be back.

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We ate there tonight on your recommendation. Thanks! We had two dishes, one a tibs (a dry beef stir fry) and the other something I'd never seen on an Ethiopian menu before. I think it was called Binatu, and it was one of two or three items without an English description, which intrigued me initially. It turned out to be torn injera soaked in a delicious gravy of some sort, mixed with beef, and topped with kitfo and cheese. It was quite a dish, and tasty! One small word of warning, when you ask for your kitfo cooked "medium" here, it means the beef touches a hot pan for a second or two at most...it was delicious, but about as rare as rare can be.

Good stuff...we'll be back.

You get your kitfo cooked? Blasphemer!

The other warning is that, while it's not as divey as it was before renovations, those expecting a more refined dining environment will be disappointed.

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Enough of Etete, which is tired, boring and full of yuppies.

As opposed to Ethiopic?

the other something I'd never seen on an Ethiopian menu before. I think it was called Binatu, and it was one of two or three items without an English description, which intrigued me initially. It turned out to be torn injera soaked in a delicious gravy of some sort, mixed with beef, and topped with kitfo and cheese. It was quite a dish, and tasty!

"Binatu," in English, is "chilaquiles."

You may mail my James Beard Award to:

DonRocketh

6969 Lickmyte St E

Wreckville, VA (*)

(*) That would be just over the American Legion Bridge, where it suddenly becomes legal to use cell phones.

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Enough of Etete, which is tired, boring and full of yuppies.

As opposed to Ethiopic?

If you look back to my first look at Ethiopic, you will realize that the Waitman family is one gaggle (pride? hubris?) of yuppies will not soon again be darkening their doors.

While I'm thinking about it, Zenebech's sambusas (in English: samosas, only with lentils) were superior as well and make an excellent kick-off to a kitfo-soaked meal.

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What a great place. For $13, I got the Zenebech Special platter. Unlike some Ethiopian restaurants where you have to choose between veggie and meat platters, this one gives you four of each. Two of the meat dishes were raw, whch the guy behind the counter said could be cooked if I preferred. I said no, I wanted the real deal, and I'm glad I did. The kitfo was terrific as was the second raw dish -- which I couldn't place until later when I was paying and the guy asked me "how was the stomach and liver"? The whole platter was delicious and a real bargain.

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Third visit to Zenebech last night. Four of us shared a vegetarian platter, nege tibs, and another tibs dish whose name escapes me. We "splurged" and went for teff injera, a whopping $1 upcharge.

We quite literally devoured our meal. The nege tibs (dry grilled lamb, with grilled peppers and onions) was the first to go, followed quickly by the always delicious shiro and the collard greens. We cleared them out of teff injera, as our waiter, with a hint of regret, told us.

Zenebech is, hands down, our favorite Ethiopian place in DC right now, particularly when I consider the rather mediocre meal we had at Ethiopic recently. And the value is simply unbelievable -- more than enough food for four, plus a few Hakim Stouts, set us back $50. You can spend more money at a food truck.

As the evening progressed Zenebech became more and more crowded, something we'd not experienced there before. Service (there's one waiter/food runner) got a bit more harried, and the noise veered towards cacophany around 9 PM. That, and the recently spiffed up menus, suggests the secret is out.

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I've still haven't gotten to Zenebech! Now you have me worried that, when I do, it'll be a case of "Oh, you should've been there when . . . ."

Do you think it's gone downhill, or just that, perhaps, they've added some less-than-stellar cooks in the kitchen, so that it depends on who cooks your meal? Would you say Axum is a better bet at this point?

My fav spot, Zenebach, has been a little hit-or-miss lately.

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I've still haven't gotten to Zenebech! Now you have me worried that, when I do, it'll be a case of "Oh, you should've been there when . . . ."

Do you think it's gone downhill, or just that, perhaps, they've added some less-than-stellar cooks in the kitchen, so that it depends on who cooks your meal? Would you say Axum is a better bet at this point?

We would have gone to Zenebach last night if they hadn't been full already, so we haven't given up hope.

My assumption is that somebody's mom (who also may be an owner) is in the kitchen most nights but some nights she takes off (I'd avoid Sunday) and so the Aunt or a neighbor or somebody takes over.

At this point, I'd hesitate to choose between the two, but Zenebach at it's best is probably the better.

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Ventured across N Cap to the dreaded NW, and had a fantastic lunch at Zenebech.  I've been trying this new thing where I eat vegetarian until dinner, so I ordered the vegetarian sampler...and a side of keye wot.  What can I say...made up for it with vegetarian dinner.

For $13 ($10 for the sampler and $3 for the wot) this was a ridiculous amount of food...all of it great.  I committed an unforced error and fed the boy some spicy lentils, leading to a near complete meltdown and a minor scene.  He'll be sticking to the kik alicha and gomen from here on out.

I will be back, probably within a week for the kitfo.  Has anyone had the dulet or fish dulet here?

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Zenebach is LEGIT. The baby lamb tibs, when they have it which ain't that often, is out of this world good; the owner told me they have their own farm out in md and raise all their own lamb and cows

Was told tonight that baby lamb will no longer be offered because they can't source it.

So, who can hook them up??!!

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Stunningly, even though they only have like 6 tables, they will take a reservation.

Dined here the other night, party of 6. Beef sambusas, vegetable platter, awaze tibs beef, fish dulet, doro wat. More food than we could eat, and since that was only 4 dishes for 6 people, the total was a stupidly cheap $60 after tax.

Note - spicy is SPICY here, which is fine by me, but did get to the person at the table who prefers mild. That fish dulet is outstanding - much better than the whole fried fish you see at most places across town.

Definitely a contender for best Ethiopian in the area right now.

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Went back for a repeat last night...the wife was suitably impressed.  We had the kitfo and fish dulet. The kitfo was excellent, but the fish dulet stole the show.  We will be back and back and back again as we work our way through the menu.

I learned my lesson, and the little dude stuck to kik alicha and collard greens this time around.  Somehow he must have gotten the memo on Ethiopian eating habits, as he refused to take anything from his spoon, only accepting things served with injera.  Messier, but definitely more fun.

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We've been ordering take out from Zenebech pretty steadily over the past couple of months.  This weekend was the first stumble.  Our standard MO is to order the veggie sampler, and then a 50/50 with 2 meat dishes.  We've enjoyed the kitfo, a few different tibs (really liked the dried derek tibs), and the goat stew.  This was the first time we ordered the gored gored (raw, of course)...probably won't be getting that one again.  The seasoning was fantastic, but several (most?) of the pieces of beef had terribly chewy sinew in them, totally ruining the experience.  Bummer.  I think we'll stick with the kitfo from here on out, which we've always enjoyed.

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Went on a Sunday night around 7pm and the place was mostly empty, like two other tables with people the whole time we were there.  The place was a lot less divey than I was expecting...but certainly bare bones store front with a couple posters/paintings on the wall.

The veggie sambusa ($1.50 each) were piping hot straight out of the fryer and pretty straight forward.

The veggie sampler ($10) was very good.  The collard greens and cabbage dishes were very fresh tasting.  The various lentil and chickpea dishes all solid.  I would call it a toss up with Ethiopic's veggie sampler at half the price.  Perhaps Ethiopic gets the nod with their caramelized carrot dish (which might be my favorite Ethiopian dish).

The fish dulet ($10) was excellent and a dish I have not seen at other Ethiopian restaurants.  A large pile of finally minced tilapia with herbs and jalapenos and a small pile of mitmita for sprinkling on top.  I would definitely order this dish again.

Unfortunately the lamb nech tibs ($11.75) was flat out bad.  The lamb was flavorless, tough, and multiple pieces were all gristle. The "curry sauce" was thin, oily and also devoid of flavor.  A complete waste.

We ordered the teff injera, which had a $2.50 charge.  The color of the injera was dark chocolate brown and had a more pronounced sour/fermented flavor.

Hakim Stout at $3 a bottle.

Since we generally go vegetarian/fish at Ethiopian restaurants I would rank Zenebech v. Ethiopic as neck and neck.  Only three metro stops away from my office and easier to get to, I think Zenebech will be our "we want some good Ethiopian at a cheap price" kind of place.  Whereas Ethiopic would be more of a going out for the night with friends or out-of-town guests, when we want something a little more classy.  Both have their spots in the rotation.

I will say, with Zenebech, Right Proper, The Brown Empire (Eat the Rich et al.), and FishNet coming on line, the two blocks around the Howard Theater are a heck of a good two blocks.  

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Zenebech now has a website - it's probably been up for awhile now, but it wasn't at first.

Of note: Zenebech is open 7 days from 8AM-11PM.

Also, I heard from Michael Demissie, and he told me that "Zenebech Injera" was the old name, but they now prefer to be called "Zenebech Restaurant." So, no more Zenebech Injera!

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I decided to use the discount coupon I had for Doordash delivery service to get food from Zenebech.  I was quoted a 70 minute delivery window estimate (which was fine - I ordered early on purpose), and the food arrived in half that time, still plenty warm.

Not knowing how much injera was coming with the order, I ordered extra teff injera, which I didn't need.  It was unclear on the menu how much injera would come with the food, if any.  The only clue that it definitely included injera was a note that the food "can be served with gluten-free brown rice," implying that would be in place of injera.   As a side note, I think they've got a mispricing issue here, as it was only $2 per order for the teff, which appears to be $2.50 in the restaurant.  For the most part, it appeared that Doordash's prices were $1 per item more than those on the restaurant's online menu, which seems reasonable to me.  I'm not sure if the regular delivery fee is $5 or $6, but for a first order it's $1.

The injera that came with the main dishes I ordered* (Vegetarian combo and Lamb awaze tibs, with an upcharge of $1.75 for lamb) was the lighter version.    The lower portion melted into the food in the container a bit, but the injera packed on top of the food stayed a little sturdier, though it was a bit sauce-soaked.  I think I might make a special request next time that the top injera be packaged separately and see what happens.  (The extra order I got came in a zipper bag.)  There will be a next time, since this worked really well.  Obviously it would be cheaper to go to the restaurant, but I haven't found it logistically that feasible and this is a decent workaround for a solid Ethiopian fix.

As procedural as this post sounds, the food was quite good.   I expect I'll be learning how well injera freezes, because I have much more of that than the other leftovers.

*I wanted to order the kitfo but avoided it purely due to the extreme heat and my uncertainty about delivery time.  Given the promptness with which the order arrived, I didn't need to be so concerned about that.

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As procedural as this post sounds, the food was quite good.   I expect I'll be learning how well injera freezes, because I have much more of that than the other leftovers.  

It's funny you wrote this - I was reading through your post, thinking to myself, 'Gosh this information is useful,' and was planning on contacting you and saying just that.

One thing that separates this community from others is the level of depth people get into when describing things - as a potential diner, you really can't have too much detail. This was an excellent post, Pat.

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45 minutes ago, DonRocks said:

See what day it's closing if you can.

I tried.  He was not willing to be pinned down even though I asked directly... but it may be Monday.  Very busy but the quality was very good.  Everything had the full-flavored delicacy it always does .  (The sambusa pastry was a bit too thick but the lentil filling was spiced well.) Very light Injera. 

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On October 15, 2016 at 9:58 PM, marketfan said:

I tried.  He was not willing to be pinned down even though I asked directly... but it may be Monday. 

We were there Friday. Long lines, but food still delicious. And we had the same results - not certain on the closing date, but soon.

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Hey folks - at some point I read that the daughter of the folks who ran Zenebech also had a restaurant. Now I can't remember where I read that! Is it true? If so, where is it and what is its name? Thanks!

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22 hours ago, frogprince said:

Oh to have even a sniff of Zenebech down here on the gulf coast...

We can send someone with spice packets and teff flour... I am SURE you could make the food with those.

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On 3/3/2017 at 11:06 PM, frogprince said:

Oh to have even a sniff of Zenebech down here on the gulf coast...

When we were last down there a year or so ago, we noticed there were two Ethiopian places in NO: Nile and Cafe Abyssinia.

I'm sure they don't stand up to Zenebech (most places in DC don't either), but have you checked them out?

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On 3/5/2017 at 1:19 PM, DanielK said:

When we were last down there a year or so ago, we noticed there were two Ethiopian places in NO: Nile and Cafe Abyssinia.

I'm sure they don't stand up to Zenebech (most places in DC don't either), but have you checked them out?

Yes I have, unfortunately. Nile was abysmal, Abyssinia less so- Le sigh... we used to live a block from Zenebech way back when, last time we were in town I could hardly recognize my home turf

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We stopped in to the new location last Saturday night for a date night before I left for a work trip (tempting fate by eating a large Ethiopian meal before spending 20 hours on planes to Suriname). It was their second night open in the new space.  It is large and open, with booths along one wall and tables in the middle.  We arrived around 6, and it was pretty full.  We got a booth in the back, which was dark and forelorn, but soon after a table in window opened up and we moved into it.  The service was a bit scattered, but really friendly.  The food is as good as it ever was, with the vegetarian sampler spectacular and the awaze tibs also really great.  I like that you can choose two different meat dishes and get half orders of each for one price.  

Prices remain excellent, with dinner for two (with soft drinks and 1 beer) an astounding $40.

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I'd agree with sheldman, we were there Saturday night and had almost the exact order minus the cottage cheese.  Everything was really good.

When you walk into Zenebech the smaller first area has a host stand, a bar with a couple TVs, and a handful of two tops.  The second room to the left has probably 15 or so tables.  They didn't put too much into decor, everything is fairly bare bones looking, with some Ethiopian prints and art work on the walls.  Otherwise it's faux brick paneling and wood with a tile floor.  We got there around 8pm and the second room was mostly full, but we were able to get a two top straight away.  By the time we left around 9 pm the room was probably half full.  Veg sampler, two lentil sambusa, two beers ran $30 with tax.        

Glad to have Zenebech back and now walking distance. 

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16 hours ago, sheldman said:

I was there tonight in the new Adams Morgan location, eating vegetarian sampler plus homemade cottage cheese, and lentil sambusa.  Delicious food, happy open space, and friendly staff.  Wonderful.

Was the cottage cheese mixed into the collards?  That's the dish I remember most from the old Red Sea, and I have not been able to find it anywhere else.  I'm looking forward to heading here soon.

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2 minutes ago, Pat said:

Was the cottage cheese mixed into the collards?  That's the dish I remember most from the old Red Sea, and I have not been able to find it anywhere else.  I'm looking forward to heading here soon.

Was not mixed in - was an extra ordered side, just cheese. Was really good on its own. Mixing with the collards is a great idea. Next time!

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Looks like bad news. There was a 2-alarm fire in the attic of the Cajun seafood place next door to Zenebech last night. The Post didn't link to any of the video, but there is some on the @dcfireems Twitter feed, and it looks pretty bad. You can see the ladder in front of Zenebech referred to in the Post article in the video. It sounds as though they occupy different storefronts in the same building. It would be amazing if Zenebech didn't sustain some serious damage, but here's hoping...And it's certainly not a good day for the owners of the business where the fire was concentrated.  

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