Sunday, September 13, 2009

Better Than Genet: Little Ethiopia

Continuing my renewed survey of Little Ethiopia on Fairfax, I stopped by...Little Ethiopia. This is one of a handful of the eateries I've never visited, so I decided to find out what I'd been missing; it turns out, I'd been missing a lot.

I ordered the standard veggie and meat combos (the veggie combo is the Yatkelilt Wot; the meat combo isn't on the menu, but the chef will make one for you if you ask) and an order of shiro.

The standard combo dishes were excellent. The yellow lentils were spiked with more garlic than usual and all of the veggie dishes, red lentils, greens and alicha had great flavor.

In the meat combo, the wots were excellent. The doro wot sauce was more comparable to a Oaxacan mole than any other doro wot I've had. It was both sweet and a bit spicy, and had the flavor of countless spices, roasted and crushed into a thick paste that is the hallmark of a traditional mole. The beef wot was similar but less sweet and more spicy; both were excellent. Indeed, these were some of my favorite wots in town, and all of the meat dishes were less greasy than at many Ethiopian spots. I was less enthused about the yebeg alicha in which the lamb was a bit chewy.

The other distinguishing thing about Little Ethiopia was that the butter flavor was so discernible in their sauces and stews. Butter is the cornerstone of Ethiopian cooking, but the pure taste of butter is often lost to the bold spices that compromise the various stews. At Little Ethiopia, you could taste both spice and butter, which gave the dishes a profoundly rich flavor.

My only complaint about Little Ethiopia was that the shiro was a bit bland. The others in our party enjoyed it though, and I must admit that my own tastes in shiro are blinded by my love for a certain Manhattan Ethiopian restaurant whose shiro I hold in near reverential esteem and to which I compare nearly every shiro, all of which seem to come up short. That, however, is another story.

The servings at Little Ethiopia are generous and the staff is friendly and courteous. While I enjoyed Genet, I liked Little Ethiopia's bold flavors better, the atmosphere was more relaxed and the servings were more generous. So far, this is my favorite of the Fairfax strip.

Little Ethiopia
1048 S. Fairfax Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90019
(323) 930-2808

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