Ethiopian cooking is essentially homecooking, so the thing to seek is a grandmother or mother who rules the kitchen—and whose cuisine is full of generosity, loving attention to detail, and gracious presentation. At this modest coffee shop, that would be Kelem Lemu, who often can be found spooning her wats, or stews, atop spongy rounds of injera, soliciting feedback about spice levels, and inquiring after diners’ happiness.
She displays a light touch in the kitchen, where hearty fare such as kitfo, an aggressively spiced beef tartare, and doro wat, chicken and egg bathed in a sweet, spicy red-pepper stew, are rendered with clarity and cleanness. It’s a testament to her gifts that the simpler vegetable dishes, including a gingery beet-and-potato salad and a velvety split-pea stew called kik alicha, are strong enough to stand on their own.
Also good: Chicken and lentil sambusas, three-cornered fried pastries; shagga kitfo, with ayeb (Ethiopian cottage cheese) and mitmita (red-pepper spice); beef tibs.