Fans of the recently-closed Santa Trata will be absolutely knocked out by the new Abyssinia Ethiopian Restaurant at 913 4th Street, between Brookwood and E Streets, at the site of the former Nhabee Cafe. The room is not much different, most likely the same chairs and tables. Pictures of famous sites in Ethiopia as well as some goatskin paintings and other art are pleasant to look at. The service was perfect. The young man who seated us and took our orders was obviously proud of his offerings and helpful in making our choices. He was attentive but not over-eager throughout the meal.
I specifically took a take out menu with me so I would be able to write the names of the dishes we had. Now I can't find it, so bear with me while I do my best.
The menu consisted of two appetizers, a large selection of meat entrees, an equally large selection of vegetarian entrees, soft drinks, iced tea, and beer, including a beer from Ethiopia and a beer from Eritrea if I remember correctly. We had the Eritrean beer, which was very nice, and a Corona, which went very well with the food. I think there was also one white and one red wine offered. I don't recall seeing dessert on the menu.
Three of us ate there, including my mother-in-law, who doesn't like spicy food. We were all very pleased with our choices. We shared the lentil appetizer, which is served slightly chilled. It was served with wedges of what looked like flour tortillas. Don't worry, injera is on the way. The salad was very good, with lentils, green peppers, and perhaps some other veggies. It's not at all spicy, so some may find it too tame, but I thought it was a good start. Our server brought us more tortillas when we ran out.
My husband and I shared the meat and vegetable combo entree for two. I think it was $20.00. It was a huge platter covered by the longed-for injera. The injera here is not as airy or sour as Santa Trata's, but was very good. There were dollops of three meat dishes and three vegetable dishes on the injera. More injera is served to each person on the side. At first I thought I could have eaten all six dollops myself, but that proved to be a delusion.
The dishes varied by the spice mixed use as the base for the sauce. I remember that the mitmita is very hot, with a great kick, and berbere was less spicy, but still with enough heat to please me, and I really like heat. Both have red pepper in them, I think.
The meat dishes were out of this world. I highly recommend the chicken served with a hard boiled egg. I think it was called Doro Wot. It was perfectly spiced and had a bit of heat. The sauce had a spicy red pepper base, butter, onions, ginger, lemon juice and other spices and was not at all heavy. The two lamb dishes were also excellent. My husband and I had a split decision over which one was best. He perferred the hotter of the two, while I liked the complexity of the tamer dish. Our salads were a cooling cabbage, potato, and carrot mix, a delicious lentil salad that differed from the appetizer, and some sliced tomato and lettuce mix. All were very good.
My mother-in-law had the vegetarian platter. She was able to order it for one, although it is listed as for two on the menu. I think she was charged $10.00. The kitchen was happy to accomodate her request to have non-spicy dishes, so she may have had some substitutions from the regular menu version of the entree. In addition to the three salads we had, she was served the BEST collard greens of this cuisine that I've ever had. They were not at all bitter. Fabulous. She also had a garbanzo bean salad that may have been served as a paste, like hummus. I can't recall. I also can't recall the sixth salad on her platter. Everything was fresh and delicious.
I feel guilty saying this, but I think Abyssinia is much better than Santa Trata. The spices are more interesting and everything is so fresh and perfectly prepared. I really liked Santa Trata and the family that owned it, but I gotta call it like I see it.
I am so happy this restaurant has opened. Now all we have to do is show up frequently so it succeeds. I'm in!
Abyssinia Ethiopian Restaurant
913 4th Street