Went to Merkato 55 on Saturday night and was really lookingforward to it, given the background of the chef and my love for all the incredible flavors associated with Ethipian cuisine. I have to say, I was surprised by all the choices made. The food was totally adequate, but there was almost nothing really ethnic or ethiopan to speak of -- Not that I am an expert in this type of food, but I thought, given the fact that samuelson is, there would be something exceptional about the flavors and presentation. Almost everything on the menu seems totally safe, or just really 2008....do they eat fois gras in ethiopia...on their pita? We tried all the breads. The sesame and zatar breads were good, but the pita was limp and totally nothing, might have been store bought, which is actually kind of inexcusable, given how easy it is to make. The babaganouch had a nice cumin, smoky flavor, but honestly, there are about 100 great places to get this. The shrimp hot sauce, basically tasted like a hot spread with a slight fishy taste, again sort of pointless. The coriander one was completely inedible, given the fact that it must have had mayonnaise in it, which is beyond discusting..The riesling was good, but nothing too special. The service is actually very nice. No attitude to speak of, but actually a little too casual given the prices. I also think that the servers in this type of establishment, should be educated about the food and about the flavors. We had to ask a bunch of questions about what certain words meant, and what the prep was, and they had to go and ask two or three times, but they were sweet about it. Since I don't eat red meat, there are not a lot of choices. I knew that going in. I chose the red snapper in a banana leaf and a side order of the smoky collard greens. The quality of the fish was very good, but not hot, which I hate. Again unacceptable for a restaurant of this caliber. Not exactly sure how pan fried snapper with corn and pomagranate is Ethiopian, but it didn't really work. I understand what he's getting at...meaning the presentation was beautiful, with the red and the bright yellow and a dollop of a green paste that looked like it was some kind of mix of cilantro and other herbs, but the seeds of the pom just don't make it. The crunch and mouthfeel just feel wrong. I think it might have been better if it were just made into a reduction instead of the real seeds. The portion looks pretty small, but actually it's totally filling, since it's a meaty thickness of snapper. I actually really enjoyed the collard greens, although I'm not a big fan normally. The smokiness adds a great flavor and although there is an herb butter, it was not at all greesy, which it could have been. We didn't order any couscous, since we totally filled up on the breads. The room is very pretty, but for sure, ask to sit upstairs. The downstairs is not special at all, except that the chairs are beautiful and the fabrics are very special and unsual. The upstairs feels much more intimate and bustling. The desserts basically seemed like a mistake to me. After reading about avocado and coconut something, I almsot lost my appetite for dessert, but given that I really like a little bite of something sweet after a salty meal, we ordered a tasting of sorbet. Sorbet as far as I'm concerned is usually a choice of people who want something sweet, but don't want the excess of calories. I was therefore not into the fact that the kafir lime sorbet absolutely was laced with cream...what's the point? The mango was fine, but whatever. Basically, I'm not sure what the whole idea is behind this place and I would veture to say, it will be gone in 2 years. It's just not good enough to attract real foodies, and too weird for all the meatpacking meatheads....overall, I left thinking, "too bad, it could have been really good." And I remembered my last great Ethipian meal at that great place that was on 19th street off Park Ave South....out of business for years.