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Merkato review, long

WildSwede | Mar 17, 200503:09 PM

Went for the first time (first try of Ethiopian food for the both of us) a couple of weeks ago. Thank you to all of you who responded to my post – Dommy!, rabo encendido, h2obemo & Jimmy Dickinson. Arrived around 5:30 – 6-ish on a Saturday. Most tables were unoccupied, but at the few tables that were occupied were so by Ethiopians (a good sign in my book!). Were seated at a table with regular chairs (saw the “horsey” chairs, Jimmy!! and they did not look very comfy).
Each of us ordered a glass of Makeda (Honey) wine. It is a light, crisp, sweet wine (mom seemed to think it was much sweeter that I did) which is made with some kind of hops. You could detect the faint smell of beer although did not taste like it. It sure walloped a punch, though, and I had to give the other half of mine to mom (I was driving).
Then we ordered the Vegetarian Combo (#25) and the Combination Plate (#14) (thanks h2obemo!).

Vegetarian Combo consisted of:
Special Shiro (#21) – Ground peas cooked in red sauce with assorted spices and tomato.
Lentils (#22) – Split lentils in red pepper sauce seasoned with assorted spices.
Collard Greens (#23) – Collard greens steamed & seasoned with garlic & green pepper.
Yatklt Alitcha (#24) – Steamed cabbage seasoned with assorted spices.
Timatim Fit-Fit (#26) – Injera tossed ori specially blended fresh tomato, olive oil, jalapeno, herbs and spices. Like a pico de gallo.
Yekeke Alicha (#27) – although it is not indicated as part of the combo, it was included on our plate. Peas in a mild sauce seasoned with assorted spices.

Combination Plate consisted of:
Yebere Sega Wot (#9) – Strips of beef braised in red pepper sauce with assorted spices.
Yebeg Alicha (#12) – Mild lamb stew, delicately spiced with garlic, ginger and other assorted spices.
All served with the wonderful grey-colored, spongy, pancake-like bread – Injera.

I honestly tried to find something I didn’t like, to make this report interesting, but it was impossible. However, I think the Yebeg Alicha was my least favorite, followed by the collards and cabbage, then the Yekeke Alicha. Everything else tied for third with the Lentils coming in 1st and the Special Shiro at second. Didn’t know food could race, but I guess so!! In reviewing what I have written, and knowing my tastes, I am definitely geared towards more spicy, flavorful items (like the ones in red pepper sauce vs. the more mild flavored items like the Lamb and Yekeke Alicha). I would like to put a disclaimer out there that I liked it all and would definitely eat any of these items again.

I asked the waitress if they dumbed-down the heat of the dishes since my mom mentioned to her prior to ordering that her stomach could not tolerate spicy food. She told me that they have a lot of white people in there so they make it more mild than Ethiopians like to eat it. Next time, I am going to ask for it the way it is eaten in Ethiopia. Either way, mom easily tolerated all of the items and loved it all.

We also took Dommy!’s advice and ordered the Ethiopian Coffee ceremony. It takes about 15-20 minutes to get. About 10-15 minutes after you order it, they come out with a smoking metal cup with a long handle. Inside are the roasted beans (that they roast after you order). They kind of wave it in front of you. Then about 5-10 minutes later they bring out a serving vessel (wood on legs) on which sits a daintily-shaped clay coffee pot which rests in a colorful straw ring (it is round on the bottom), two small cups and incense. It is all really nice and they take it pretty seriously. By this time the whole restaurant was filled and people were looking at our table to see what was going on. The coffee was delicious - and I am not a coffee drinker!

I got the feeling that many of the diners were first-timers like us. I would say it was equally divided with Ethiopian and other diners. I like to see this. We spoke with some of our neighbors and found everyone to be really nice and helpful.

Saw that whole trout go by and wanted to get it, but were really full. Next time I plan on trying the other items that were recommended – Kitfo (Finely chopped lean beef with spiced Ethiopian butter and mitmita (spiced hot chilis), Yedoro Wot (Chicken stewed in red pepper sauce with an assortment of spices served with hard boiled eggs and tomato salad), Asa Tibbs – whole white trout fried fish Ethiopian style, served with vegetarian side dishes) and the Sineg (two long stuffed hot peppers – hear they are HOT!!). Everything sounds and smells so delicious.

Total, including tax and tip was $40. Coffee service alone was $9.99. Really inexpensive for what we got.

Will try Awash next time. Mom also indicated she is interested in trying Meals by Genet as well. Will post as soon as we try it!! Thanks again fellow hounds!

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