This unassuming restaurant is nestled among the dives in Adams Morgan near the corner of 18th and U Streets NW. It is quite large with two levels of dining area. The furniture varies throughout the restaurant from typical chairs to more traditional Ethiopian cushioned seating. On the top floor, where we were seated, there were only these funky cushioned seats along with tables woven out of basket weave.
We started off with white wine and vegetarian lentil sambusas. I should mention that all vegetarian items in an Ethiopian restaurant are vegan as they do not use dairy or eggs in the preparation of these meals. The lentil sambusas definitely get a 1 for presentation. They weren't that great -- just plain lentils in fried wrappers, but for $3.50, you really can't beat that deal.
For our meal, we ordered a vegetarian messob for two and requested a sampling of all of the entrees rather than just a few. Ethiopian food is served with injera, a bread made of teff. It is spongy and soaks up all of the rich flavors of Ethiopian food, most of which is lentil-based. You use the injera to scoop up the different entrees one-by-one. No forks needed!
We dug in. The most unique dish was the Misir Azifa, which was a cold, tangy dish made of pureed lentils and a rare combination of finely chopped onions and green chillies mixed in vinaigrette sauce. I don't think I've ever had this dish before so it was a nice treat.
By the end of the meal, I thought it was much better than the last few meals I'd had at Dukem for a few reasons. For one, the food just tasted better -- all of the dishes were seasoned just right with the right consistency. The prices were more reasonable -- at Dukem, they charge for extra injera while Meskerem does not. And you need extra injera! And, lastly, they actually put the names of the dishes on the menu so you know what you are eating. At Dukem, they just put what is in the dish in English without giving you the Ethiopian name of the dish.
So, although the service wasn't the greatest, I think this is one of the better Ethiopian restaurants in the city and I will be choosing it over Dukem for now. If you haven't ever tried Ethiopian food, this would be a great place to go.
2434 18th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009