Sunday, August 2, 2009

Meals by Genet

I continue my very slow, post-Fassica effort to revisit all of the Ethiopian restaurants on Fairfax. This week, I visit the most critically acclaimed of the eateries, Meals by Genet. Meals by Genet carries a snob appeal absent from its neighbor eateries. Aside from its pretentious name, it touts itself as "the only authentic gourmet Ethiopian restaurant in Los Angeles," quite a claim to make on a street that has a half dozen or more Ethiopian restaurants. The restaurant itself goes for a white tablecloth, cloth napkin aesthetic though, on the evening I went it still seemed to have a casual vibe, with patrons in everything from shorts and T-shirts to slightly dressier attire.

I hadn't been to Meals by Genet in several years, but it was mostly as I remembered it. Our party ordered the vegetarian combination, chicken doro wot and the lamb dish. I like meat dishes, but I tend to judge Ethiopian restaurants on their vegetarian dishes; the combination of spices that goes into the various lentil and potato dishes and even the traditional, vinegary romain salad are a window into the soul of an Ethiopian restaurant. This is, for me, what differentiates a standard Ethiopian shop from a great one, that and my unending quest for the best shiro, but that's another story and Meals by Genet doesn't serve shiro anyway.

Genet does its flavors very well. The various lentil dishes, which at some eateries can seem redundant, have very distinct flavors emphasizing different spice combinations. In addition to the typical veggie combo standards like lentils, greens and alicha, Genet's includes a potent mustard and a sunflower puree. The romain salad had a pleasant, garlicky salad dressing.

With eleven elements, the Genet veggie combo comes with more variety than most, but at much reduced portions and a higher price. The small portions are a bit frustrating for a bigger group, as there are as little as a tablespoon or two of some items, but they are all very good.

The two meat dishes were good but fairly standard for the block; the doro wot was nearly identical to other versions I've had and the lamb was fairly unexciting.

It's hard to enjoy an Ethiopian meal if the injera, the only component in every bite, is lacking, and Genet does a great injera. It was nice and fluffy with a decent chewiness and a good sourdough punch. I'm not sure to what extent that eateries in Little Ethiopia all make their own injera or get some of it from common sources, but Genet's was definitely better than some of the other places on Fairfax.

Reflecting Ethiopia's brief colonial period, Genet also offers a spattering of Italian dishes, but I've never tried anything from that portion of the menu. If anyone has, please chime in.

Meals by Genet does their lentils, potatoes and other vegetable dishes well, but I would like to see more for my money there and less pretension. If going with a big group, I would recommend a double order of the veggie combo and might hold the meat altogether.

Meals by Genet
1053 South Fairfax Avenue (west side of the street)
Los Angeles, CA 90019
(323) 938-9304

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