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January 2006: Etete

This Ethiopian restaurant, with its hardwood floors, lights dangling from the ceiling, and candy-colored Cosmos at the bar, may look like a trendy bistro, but at heart it’s a cozy family operation: Etete means “mama,” and tucking into the cooking of Tiwal

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THE SCENE. This Ethiopian restaurant, with its hardwood floors, lights dangling from the ceiling, and candy-colored Cosmos at the bar, may look like a trendy bistro, but at heart it's a cozy family operation: Etete means "mama," and tucking into the cooking of Tiwaltengus Shenegelgn is akin to being bundled up in a warm blanket.

WHAT YOU'LL LOVE. The best Ethiopian cooking in the city is emanating from a single block on Ninth Street, Northwest, just below U, and Etete's is the most delicious of the bunch. Having your food ladled out of an iron cauldron with care by the gracious staff is a kind of pampering that's rare at any level. If you're lucky, and it's not too busy, Etete herself might emerge from the kitchen to serve you seconds from a bowl.

WHAT YOU WON'T. Some dishes, like the rosemary-and-wine-marinated beef that sends up great clouds of steam like a platter of fajitas, are pandering and dull. And the menu can be off-putting to patrons only casually acquainted with Ethiopian cooking, featuring as it does such courage-requiring fare as lamb tripe and lamb liver.

BEST DISHES. Lega tibs, a lamb dish whose fabulous sauce derives from sticky, caramelized onions and a generous shot of berbere powder; gomen, a dish of bright collards laced with strips of jalapeño; azifa, a cold dish of green lentils tossed with Ethiopian mustard; a simple stew of potatoes and carrots bound in a sweet, peppery tomato sauce that concentrates their flavors; kitfo, a finely minced beef tartare at once smoky and pungent.

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