Even for confirmed carnivores, the vegetarian combination is a rewarding choice at Zoma, a newish Ethiopian restaurant in Harlem. For $17 you pick four dishes; the combo can feed two and comes with plenty of injera, the spongy teff-based flatbread, for dipping and scooping.
Best bets include fassolia (green beans sautéed with garlic and tomato), misir wett (red lentil stew), and gomen (sweet, long-cooked collard greens). Buticha is a coarse chickpea mash, served cold; it’s tasty, but some may find it disagreeably mealy. Preparations are varied, and seasoning is clear and appealing. “This isn’t Spicy Mina cooking, with complex layering of flavors,” writes rose water, referring to the Bangladeshi gem in Woodside, Queens. “It’s not subtle. I love it.”
Among the nonvegetarian dishes, kafka1 recommends tibs wett: sirloin cubes in an intense, dark red stew flavored with berbere (a blend of chile and other seasonings), kibe (seasoned butter), and other spices and herbs. Other standouts: assa tibs (tilapia in currylike sauce), doro wett (a rich chicken stew with egg), yebeg alitcha (tender lamb braised in mild sauce), and samosalike sambusas (labeled “fillo pastry” on the menu, and filled with either lentils or ground sirloin).
Another relative newcomer, Meskel in the East Village, was swamped by crowds for weeks after a rave newspaper review, resulting in long waits, service meltdowns, and lots of angry muttering (and online posting). Now things have settled down, and the place sounds like a solid neighborhood Ethiopian option.
Here, too, the vegetarian combo is a smart order. zorgclyde reports uncommonly fresh flavors in the string beans (a similar preparation to Zoma’s) and tikil gomen (a currylike sauté of cabbage with carrots, garlic, and ginger), both a fine match for the tangy injera. Meat dishes—including many of those offered at Zoma—get mixed but mostly encouraging marks; some, however, find them underspiced.
Meskel Ethiopian Restaurant [East Village]
199 E. Third Street (near Avenue B), Manhattan