On a stormy evening in Phoenix seven local chowhounds decided to meet up and give Café Lalibela a try. You have probably already read Seth Chadwicks review and it is pretty spot on with how I feel about the meal, however I agreed to put my two cents worth in. First off a bit of trivia, the restaurants name is after King Lalibela who is touted to have built the eighth wonder of the world in Ethiopia the 13 rock hewn churches. That is your trivia for today now onto the food.
The meeting time was at seven and my dear friend Gayle made reservations for the group. Now as Seth alluded in his review, Gayle and I had never met the 5 of our other dining companions and close to dinnertime started to feel a bit nervous. What, we pondered over cocktails at my house if they were crazed cleaver wielding foodies looking for unsuspecting victims to kidnap and force feed Atlanta Bread Company sandwiches or Zen 32 sushi until we died of the banality of it all. Once we decided that our imaginations were getting the best of us we piled into the car and made the trek down to Tempe.
Café Lalibela is located on University just east of Hardy in a non-assuming strip mall that houses an Israeli restaurant and a drive through Starbucks. We entered and the first thing I noticed is the place was light and clean and already had many diners for the evening. A group of Ethiopians sat around a table chatting and pointed us in the direction of our table as our dining companions were already seated. We joined our party and immediately realized any notions of murderous intentions were indeed in our overactive imaginations. As we all introduced ourselves and chatted I perused the menu, now I had cheated any had already eaten at Lalibela once before a year and a half ago and was hoping that it was as good as I remembered it to be. Since Seth did a great job of recounting what everyone had, I will focus on the Lalibela Exclusive platter that Gayle, JK and myself shared. The platter contained the following:
Doro Wat (spicy chicken), Kye Sega Wat, (spicy beef stew) Alicha Sega Wat,(mild beef stew) Yebere Sega Wat, (mild lamb stew) Yebere Sega Tibs ,(pan fried beef cubes) Yebeg Alicha (lamb), Misr Wat (spicy red lentils), Gomen (collard greens), Fosolia (string beans and carrots), Tikl Gomen ( cabagge, carrots, and potatoes), Yekik Alicha (split yellow peas), and served with Injera which is the Ethiopian unleavened sourdough bread. Whew!
This is a lot of food I thought, but perfect for a complete introduction to Ethiopian cuisine and all for $35.95. Just a tip, this platter could easily serve 4-5 hungry people if you started out with soup or salad.
I also ordered their light Ethiopian beer Harar that looked like a hefeweizen but not as fruity. The beer was clean, light, hoppy and peanutty. I also ordered the Shorba, which is a lentil soup.
Our drinks arrived and we chatted, and soon after that the Shorba came and after my first bite I was hooked. Unlike Seth and Gayle I did not mind that the veggies were finely chopped and the soup did arrive piping hot and was just what I needed as I earlier informed the table that I was about ready to gnaw my arm off. The platter arrived next and with all the fanfare that was created I expected trumpets to sound off while a sentry announced, all hail the platter of meat and veg ! I dove in to the Chicken first, which I loved, next was the spicy beef stew which was on the sweet side, put it on a roll and it would be a great sandwich. I agree with Gayle though, all the veggie dishes were outstanding. I would probably by pass the meat next time and go all veg.
Overall a pleasant evening with good company and a few laughs. I am not a stickler on the service in this type of restaurant as much as Seth is, however it is annoying when you want your drink refilled and have to ask. I hope to be able to do another outing like this again as I always find it interesting to meet new people and experience great food.