Addis Ababa

A recent visit to a new discovery was in Silver Spring, MD, an area chokeful of Ethiopian eateries of which some I have enjoyed eating at. When I read up the online reviews for Addis Ababa Restaurant, I was reassured by its high ratings and effusive reviews. Walking into its door was an immediate transportation to a different world and time frame due to the decor and furniture, all speaking of authenticity and pride of the Old World. My eyes were already immediately feasting on the visual candy, especially the table of coffee cups that hinted of the Coffee Ceremony that I was lucky to partake in before.


We quickly narrowed our choices to the Vegetable Platter with a couple of meat dishes. The true litmus test, for me at least, of Ethiopian food is the flavors and treatment of the different pulses and vegetables that I am extremely fond of. The red lentils were made spicy and smokey by the use of the berbere pepper sauce, with a hint of sweetness to balance the heat. The yellow lentils were cooked just right with lots of savoriness complementing its onion sweetness that made this mild bite very irresistible. The injera bread was fresh with its usual sour note that made it the perfect foil and eating scooper for the various elements on the large platter.


The rest of the vegetable elements were equally impressive. The beans were extremely exquisite with a high degree of savoriness that made me coming back to it often. The cabbage and carrots were cooked just right without any mushiness that exuded their natural sweetness with a good amount of garlic that I enjoyed. The collard greens were cooked to the right degree of doneness, but it was missing the right amount of vinegar sourness that would have elevated its flavor and lightened its mouthfeel. Admittedly, at this point, I would have been completely satisfied by this vegetable platter and nothing else.

The first meat dish was Awaze Beef Tibs. Pieces of beef are sautéed with the berbere pepper paste, onion, and jalapeño pepper. The flavor profile was just right with the proper heat and smokiness from the pepper paste, sweetness from onion, and the fresh green pepper adding more heat and its fresh vegetal note.  The choice of meat cut was unfortunate as it was a bit gristly for my liking. But I kept returning to it due to its wonderful flavor and its generous portion.
A must order and litmus test in any Ethiopian restaurant is a chicken-and-egg dish – Dorowat. When ordering, I was surprised to find out that there is a mild version to the usual spiced up version called Alicha. What arrived was completely unexpected and a far cry from its usual fiery looks, but its mild yellowish sauce came with its usual drumstick and single egg. From my experience in other establishments, this dish is really about the sauce itself, and this version did not fail in this regard. It tasted very savory and slightly sweet from a good amount of onion that also added some textural body to the whole mix. The chicken and egg were properly cooked, but they played second fiddle to that awesome sauce.  This mild version wowed me as much as the spicy original one, and I would not hesitate ordering it in future visits.

My meal at Addis Ababa Restaurant checked off many boxes in my books. The decor was transformative and extremely appealing to this world traveller, complemented by an amiable service. The Vegetable Platter was as good as it gets with the different pulses and vegetables having a differentiated flavor profile and cooked to the right degree of doneness. The Awaze Beef Tibs had the right flavors but a slightly better cut would have made it perfect. The mild Dorowat chicken dish was a total surprise, and its savoriness equaled the usual spicy version. With this type of cooking in a warm inviting environment, I will be returning to this wonderful place for one of my favorite cuisines.

Addis Ababa Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Askale Cafe

Askale Cafe, Washington DCI’m rather fond of Ethiopian food, and I have had my fair share of this East African cuisine since my arrival in this city 25 years ago for Grad School. Over the years, the DC area has become a destination point for Ethiopian immigrants, and the result is no shortage of restaurants that offer their cuisine. However, I have always had a difficulty deciding which restaurant to visit to do a write-up on since nearly all offer the same dishes on the menu. But when I saw an online coupon for a fairly new establishment in the Brookland neighborhood, a most unexpected place, that performs an Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony, I knew that this was the exact place for me to review. With coupon in hand, I paid them a visit recently for this review.

The following series of photographs will describe the various stages of the Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony:



Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony, Askale Cafe, Washington DCEthiopian Coffee Ceremony, Askale Cafe, Washington DCWalking into Askale Cafe, one is immediately enveloped by a cloud of burning incense, smelling rather strong of myrrh and reminding me of being in a Cathedral and evoking the feeling of an Ethiopian Orthodox church. Throughout the ceremony, the Mistress of Ceremony was refilling the burner with some incense powder.




Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony, Askale Cafe, Washington DCEthiopian Coffee Ceremony, Askale Cafe, Washington DCA earthen pot carrying burning charcoal was later brought in, a sight that I have not seen since my grandmothers were alive more than 30 years ago. Burning embers were removed and placed in the incense urn to keep the incense powder burning throughout the ceremony.  A brass plate was placed on top of the fire, topped with raw coffee beans with a sickle-like brass rake next to it. Notice the light color of the coffee beans.


Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony, Askale Cafe, Washington DCEthiopian Coffee Ceremony, Askale Cafe, Washington DCThe beans were raked over the hot brass plate until it is quite dark in color, but not burnt like in American or French roast. The roasting took quite a bit of time, with the MOC keeping a vigilant eye on the beans and without stopping the raking motion as it got faster as the beans became darker. Once the desired roast was achieved, the beans were removed to cool down on a jute-leaf plate. Notice the popcorn in the background which was used as a palate-cleanser later during the coffee drinking.


Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony, Askale Cafe, Washington DCAs part of the ceremony, all guests were invited to catch a waft of the roasted beans. The smell was beyond the immediate roasting smoke, exuding aromas of enticing roasted coffee beans with their toasted notes and creating an anticipation of its potential liquid form.

Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony, Askale Cafe, Washington DCEthiopian Coffee Ceremony, Askale Cafe, Washington DCOnce cooled, the whole beans were ground finely and poured into a jet-black earthen jar that had been set on the burning coals that had brought some water to a boil.  A wooden stop was used to keep the steam in while the ground coffee was brewing.





Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony, Askale Cafe, Washington DCEthiopian CoffeeWhen the coffee was sufficiently brewed, it was poured into small cups, much like Chinese teacups, in a single stream without any breaks, a symbolism of the continuity of life despite its ups and downs. One sip of the brew was quite a revelation: The hot drink had a full-bodied flavor devoid of the bitterness found in stronger roasts. A certain fruitiness was evident in the rather high acid level on the tongue, pointing to the nature of the bean and the fruit around it, this further emphasized due to the lack of sugar as recommended by the MOC. After adding a bit of sugar, the sourness was more palatable. Not exactly what I expected but I knew it was going to be a different cup, and I was enjoying the whole experience of watching from bean to brew.

Vegetarian Combination, Askale Cafe, Washington DCOn to the food. We ordered the vegetarian platter listed as Ethio-Mix. From top left clockwise: Gomen – collard greens cooked with some garlic and spices that enhanced the dark-nature of this green, lightened by a touch of vinegar; Cabbage and Carrots – this mixture was cooked with turmeric without turning to mush, and the natural sweet notes were shining through with the cabbage and more so with the so-sweet carrot; Red Lentils – this legume was quite a hit with the lentils cooked until soft and tasting full-flavored and slightly sweet; Yellow Lentils – this legume was not as tasty as the previous side but I appreciated the mild flavors and its mealy texture. Overall, this was a successful vegetarian/vegan combination that was wiped clean off the platter that they were served in.

Azawe Tibs, Askale Cafe, Washington DCInjera Bread, Askale Cafe, Washington DCFor the meat, we ordered Awaze Tibs. Strips of beef were cooked with garlic, onions, tomato, and fresh ginger along with some spices that made the meat bits very flavorful and a bit smokey from the condiments. The ginger added a fresh flavor, the fresh tomato a bit of sweetness and acidity to lighten the beef, and the slices of jalapeño the vegetal spice kick. The meat was a tad firm but I didn’t expect it to be smooth as butter either, and the whole mix was a hit for me and my companion. The fermented sourdough spongy Injera bread tasted light, fresh, and the right amount of sourness to be the perfect vehicle for all the vegetables, legumes, and meaty pieces. The customary use of hands in eating the dishes added to the satisfactory meal experience.


Askale Cafe, Washington DCWell this was the experience that I was looking for in order to write this blog. The coffee ceremony was not only charming but it was a cultural experience that was both revelatory and unique. The cup of java was not exactly what one would expect due to his or her conditioning, but the flavor was aromatic and amazingly, there was no hint of bitterness on my tongue on the drive home. Still lingering on my taste buds were also the vegetable and beef dishes that my companion and I enjoyed for lunch, with the wonderful flavors and well-prepared dishes having a lasting impression on my mind. Yes, the service is a tad slow since it is a family run place, but the culinary experience was well-compensated by the quality of cooking and the personable treatment by the husband-and-wife team. I can’t wait for their liquor license to be approved soon and for this cafe to turn into a proper restaurant. Once the ball gets rolling in that area, I’m sure it will be a hit in the neighborhood.