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Elfegn Ethiopian - impression

Wayne Keyser | Dec 17, 2004 08:14 PM

Lunched today at (what seems to be) the Ethiopian restaurant farthest from Adams-Morgan - even farther than the several Bailey's Crossroads ones.

Elfegn is located in a fairly sad little strip mall at 664 South Pickett (at Van Dorn) - next to Charlie Chiang's and a few spaces from an Ethiopian market (into which I did not venture this trip).

I think I'll digress a moment to list my least favorite things about the Ethiopian restaurants I've seen before:
1 - No lunch menu anywhere
2 - No lunch buffet anywhere (perhaps not enough customer base, though that's a shame)
3 - Waitstaff who, for the most part, should be taken out and shot
4 - Decor left over from the location's previous five unsuccessful incarnations
5 - The cuisine consists of stew-type dishes that should mostly be hot most of the day or at least easy to microwave (the ones I've made are quick enough to heat up) - so why does your order always take 20-30 minutes to arrive when there are only two tables occupied in the whole place?
6 - Someone needs to brave the controversy and try a diet approach - traditional Ethiopian cooking involves butter, pools of butter, great lakes of butter, more even than the Indians use ghee - I've cut back when I've tried cooking Ethiopian, and a better cook than I could go farther without compromising too much.
7 - The permanent bandstand in EVERY BLEEDIN' ONE speaks loudly about where they make the most money and, therefore, put their best efforts.

In the case of Elfegn I was very pleasantly surprised.

No lunch menu, and a tad pricey (just under $10 for entrees w. the usual accompaniments) but service was friendly and the meal arrived with reasonable speed - maybe 15 minutes, I can live with it. Pleasant decor, and if the big Italian-stlye mirrors were a legacy (don't know) the art was a delight - portraits, for the most part, by a very creative hand, with strips of colorful cloth incorporated.

My lamb wat was a large portion served in a bowl - the size made up for the price, and the sides in their bowls were ample as well. Other diners were served on large injera-covered platters, but I was eating alone - that might have made the difference. The lamb wat was flavorful, the cabbage/carrot side was sweet and aromatic (what great "comfort food"!), the mashed (chick pea? yellow lentil?) side was fairly plain, but then the other spicy dishes usually cry out for something plain by contrast.

My only complaint: nothing fresh came with - no salad, which I usually get a leaf or two of at other places - this spicy-stew cuisine cries out for a bit of fresh "crunch", ideally with a thin slice or two of fresh jalapeño and a little tangy Italian dressing. The salad can be ordered as a vegetable dish, but that would have been overkill.

In all, well worth a visit - I will be back!

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