While in Washington D.C. we dined at Lalibela’s Ethiopian Restaurant. We decided to try this restaurant due to the high ratings on Urban Spoon, 70 reviews, of which 80% were positive. When we arrived at 6PM, the small bar area was crowded though all 10 tables in the dining area were empty. Most of patrons were drinking imported beers with labels I was unfamiliar with. I nearly walked out when I spied the empty dining room. It turned out we were glad we stayed for dinner. When we left at 7PM, most of the tables were packed with an eclectic mix of people.
Do not let the dim lights and sparse decor scare you away from this gem. Pleasant servers confirmed our choices to be sure to get our order correct. I noticed at other tables the meals were combined and served family style on a single community platter. Our waiter asked if both our dinners could be served on the same tray. I declined, asking for my vegetarian meal to be served separately. They were happy to accommodate my request.
Our table had no silverware and we were not offered any utensils. We followed the custom of eating only with our right hand. Eating with the left hand is considered impolite and unclean as this hand is used for personal hygiene duties.
We started out with a couple of spinach sambusa appetizers. These golden, deep-fried dough packages were stuffed with seasoned spinach. They are similar to Greek spanakopita pockets.
We learned later that wot is a spicy stew. I ordered the Yeson wat, a vegetarian combo with six different items.
- Kik alicha: yellow split peas with onions, garlic and tumeric.
- Shiro wot: ground peas with onions, garlic, red pepper and vegetable oil
- Dinch wot: potatoes and carrots, onion, garlic, oil and house condiments
- Miser wot: lentils cooked with red peppers, onions, garlic, oil and house condiments
- Teckl gomen: cabbage and carrots cooked with onions, garlic, turmeric and vegetable oil
- Geomen wot: kale cooked with onions, garlic and vegetable oil
My husband had the keyena Alicha combo, including half Key wot and Alicha wot dinners.
- Key wot: beef marinated in red wine, cooked with red pepper sauce, onions, ginger root, garlic and exotic Ethopian spices
Alicha wot: beef prepared in Ethiopian herbed butter spice, onions, ginger root, garlic and turmeric
These beef and vegetable dinners were generously seasoned. Both of our dinners came with a side of colorful tomato salad. The dishes were flavorful though not overly spicy. The tastes were new to me.
Two platters of food arrived served on Injera bread with a second serving of bread on a separate plate. The bread is shaped like a large crepe and has a spongy texture perfect for soaking up gravy. Each serving was mounded in rounded heaps in a decorative display on the bread. Instead of silverware, we pulled off chunks of the bread and used this to scoop up our meal.
Lalibela’s Ethiopian restaurant serves a variety of foods to satisfy a wide audience. We found the service friendly and helpful. Both of us enjoyed our meals and recommend this restaurant.