Cheap Eats 2007: Etete
Comments () | Published July 12, 2007
Cheap Eats 2011 100 Best Restaurants (2011) Cheap Eats (2010) 100 Best Restaurants (2010)

Address: 1942 Ninth St., NW, Washington, DC 20001
Phone: 202-232-7600
Neighborhood: U Street/Shaw
Cuisines: Vegetarian/Vegan, Ethiopian cuisine consists of various vegetable or meat side dishes and entrees, usually a wat or thick stew, served atop injera, a large sourdough flatbread, which is 50 cm (20 inches) in diameter and made out of fermented teff flour. One does not eat with utensils, but instead uses injera (always with the right hand) to scoop up the entrees and side dishes
Opening Hours: Open daily 11 to 1.
Nearby Metro Stops: U St./African-American Civil War Memorial/Cardozo, Shaw-Howard University
Price Range: Moderate
Dress: Informal
Noise Level: Chatty
Reservations: Not Needed
Best Dishes Sambusas (lentil or beef turnovers); wats such as chicken-and-egg doro wat and yebeg wat, a lamb stew; vegetarian sampler of azifa (green lentils), yekik alicha (yellow-lentil-and-onion stew), and yemisir wat (red lentils); gomen (collard greens); kitfo.
Price Details: Appetizers $2.75 to $5; entrées $10 to $14.99.

What makes this narrow, 24-seat place stand out among the Ethiopian restaurants around Ninth and U streets? Not the decor, with its trendy palette of browns and ochres and oranges. It’s the finesse of the cooking.

Ethiopian is primarily a stew-based cuisine, so a certain heavy-handedness and even greasiness is to be expected. And yet not at Etete, which manages to deliver sauces of greater concentration and clarity than its competitors. The red sauce that makes the yebeg wat and doro wat so good is built from a foundation of caramelized onions and incendiary berbere powder and is as zesty and rich as an Italian sugu.

Kitfo, a sort of Ethiopian beef tartare, is just as good and intense even without a sauce; novices might order the meat lightly cooked, then use a torn bit of injera to scoop it up and eat it with bites of the buttery collards called gomen and the house-made cottage cheese. The vegetarian platter is a splendid sampler comprising three lentil stews (including azifa, a cool mixture of green lentils, Ethiopian mustard, and diced jalapeños), a stew of potatoes and carrots, and a chopped salad with tomatoes and Italian dressing.

Prepare to wait—and not to think of it as waiting. This is a languor-inducing place, as befits a culture that honors fellowship and a long, relaxing meal with friends.

Open daily for lunch and dinner.

Subscribe to Washingtonian
Posted at 01:40 PM/ET, 07/12/2007 RSS | Print | Permalink | Restaurant Reviews