A Blog Mainly About Food

If by "mainly" you mean "sometimes"

Monday, December 06, 2004

Restaurant Review: Addis Ababa in Silver Spring

You might be familiar with the Addis Ababa in Adams Morgan. I am, sort of--having been there, oh, two years ago. The new Silver Spring location (8233 Fenton Street) is a boon to anyone living in the 'burbs, a fantastic chance to enjoy some fabulous Ethiopian cuisine without crossing into the district. With Mandalay, Thai Derm, and Jackies, I am tempted to say that Silver Spring might actually be becoming cool. Okay, maybe not cool--but at least home to good food.

I had a good feeling the minute I walked into Addis Ababa. The small restaurant, decorated far more impressively than neighbor Langano, was packed to the gills with Ethiopian families enjoying massive meals. Now, I've been to Langano before and it's okay. But if Langano was the initial exploratory vessel into the culinary waters of Silver Spring, Addis Ababa is the whole damn Ethiopian Fleet. Compare the dead boring decor of Langano with the wonderful, light atmosphere of a restaurant with bearskin rugs, native decor on the walls, and what looked to be chairs and tables imported from Addis Ababa (the city).

But enough about the atmosphere, on to the food. Audrey and I had a combo plate (#3 for the scorekeepers out there): kitfo, yebeg tibs, doro wat, and a tomato salad. It was wonderful. The kitfo (minced beef served cold with red pepper) was my personal favorite, though I wished that I was given the option to have it raw. Audrey preferred the yebeg tibs (diced lamb cooked with butter and jalapenos). The doro wat (roasted chicken in a spicy sauce served with hardboiled eggs) was also quite good, though eating drumsticks with injera isn't exactly easy. The tomato salad was also great--tangy, crunchy, and a great coolant next to the fire of the meat courses.

A word on injera: next to naan, which I have an ethnic bias towards, injera has to be my favorite variation on a theme of bread. Ethiopian cuisine is served on a large serving plate covered by one pizza size piece of injera. The main dishes are served on the injera, while several rolls of injera accompany on the side to use as "scoops" for the meal. The sponginess, the tart fermented flavor, the premise that it is napkin, utensil, and plate all in one--well, it rocks. At one point I was quite literally "eating the plate." Heaven.

The service at Addis Ababa was what I like in a simple, affordable restaurant. The waitress was there when we needed her but otherwise practically invisible. She offered some decent guidance on the menu without pointing us to any specific dishes. Now, she was nothing like the wait staff at a high-end restaurant. But this isn't high end--this is African soul food.

If you have a chance to visit Addis Ababa, I highly recommend it. The menu can be daunting, so I recommend a combo plate to start. Don't think about the descriptions--dive in and enjoy. You won't regret it.

One small aside: because I was literally eating the plate, I noticed that the large serving plate was anything but "native"--it was actually a large Chinese serving dish. Weird.

The Lowdown:

Food: Fantastic. Definitely good for the adventurous. Highly recommended.
Ambiance: Lively and light.
Service: Just right.
Prices: $15 per person without alcohol. Booze was not enjoyed, but prices looked moderate.
Recommended if: You're in Silver Spring and in the mood for something different. Seriously, this place is that good.