Silver Chips Online

Mix, match; Reach and grab

Ethiopian food at Addis Ababa requires a different way to eat excellent food

By Meaghan Mallari, Online Managing Editor
August 16, 2005
Outside the rush of downtown Silver Spring and chain restaurants lies Addis Ababa, a traditional, culturally-decorated Ethiopian restaurant that provides great food and a great excuse to eat with your hands.

The restaurant has two eating areas: one outside rooftop and the other ground floor inside. On hot days, the inside is definitely more appealing. On this day, there are four groups of people sitting around their meal as five customers sit separately at the bar, having a drink and enjoying the casual jazz music that is playing. The room is lit by lanterns hanging from the ceiling, emitting an orange-tinted light through the paper material that is decorated by images of Ethiopian people and animals.

Each circular table is low and small in diameter, with a shallow basket covering the entirety of the tabletop. The lid of the basket is lifted as the drinks are brought and placed inside the base of the basket. Simple appetizers are the tomato salad and azeffa, brought in small serving bowls and accompanied by a flat basket of rolled up injera - grayish-colored sponge bread traditionally eaten with Ethiopian food. Rolls of injera can be torn into small portions to be used as an eating utensil.

The eating process is quite simple: Start by tearing off a small piece of injera. Take it with one hand and place it over the food that you want. Pinch the two ends of the injera together as you scoop up the food, and put it into your mouth.

The tomato salad, a watery consistency of chopped-up tomato, green pepper, onions and lemon, is very spicy. The azeffa is also watery, and if one is not a fan of horseradish flavor, it is wise to avoid this appetizer. Also accompanying the horseradish flavor are chopped onions, green pepper, garlic lentil and lemon juice.

Next comes the main course. Popular dishes include doro wat, siksikosh and kik alicha. Standing trays are placed in between chairs for drinks, and the platter of food is placed in the circular basket. Each food is portioned into groups on the rolled-out round piece of injera. Along with the main dishes are small portions of cooked collard greens, cooked cabbage and cooked green beans and carrots.

The siksikosh, a dish traditionally served only to royal families, is a serving of lamb simmered with awaze, clarified butter, garlic, ginger and black pepper. The meat is tender and the sauce is spicy and intense. The doro wat consists of two chicken legs seasoned with onions, garlic, fresh ginger, hot peppers and is cooked in red wine and simmered in berbere sauce. This dish, although seasoned with hot peppers, is not nearly as spicy as the siksikosh. The meat is very tender and easy to pick off the bone. Served with the chicken legs is a hardboiled egg. The kik alicha is a serving of yellow split peas cooked with onions, green peppers and garlic. This dish contrasts the spicy meat dishes with a sweeter, soft texture - perfect for soothing the mouth after the spices of the meat dishes. The other vegetable sides are plainer tasting but relatively sweet and good to combine in a piece of injera with the meats.

It is doubtful that you will finish the meal with room left in your stomach, but if this is not the case, let it be known that deserts here are not the restaurant's forte. The tiramisu is served frozen and the cheesecake tastes as though it comes from Costco.

But desserts are not important - especially since the rest of the food is quite filling.

Though Ethiopian food may not require the normal eating utensils, it is a new and different mix-and-match way of eating that rewards a hungry stomach.

Addis Ababa is located at 8233 Fenton Street, near the intersection of Thayer Street and Fenton Street in Silver Spring. To contact the restaurant, call 301-589-1400/1999 or visit their website at AddisAbabaRestaurant.com.

http://silverchips.mbhs.edu/story/5537