The menu at Gorsha, opening Wednesday morning inside Union Market, has some surprises. One of the three meat proteins offered at the fast-casual Ethiopian eatery is rare tuna that can be served with either pockets of sour, funky injera bread or in a bowl with rice. If you’re thinking Ethiopian poke, you’re not wrong.
The eatery’s chef and owner, Hiyaw Gebreyohannes,says using rare tuna is a nod to a more traditional Ethiopian preparation called kitfo that features rare beef and cultured butter. “Not many people want steak tartare, but so many more people are eating sushi,” he says. “Tuna is really accessible. That’s how that was born.”
Gebreyohannes is riding the wave of Ethiopian restaurants that are modernizing. Etete just emerged from a revamp boasting dishes like berbere fries, injera tacos, and crispy green lentil rolls, for example. And Letena recently opened in Columbia Heights, bringing more of a fast-casual style ordering system to the African cuisine.
“We’re trying to do cool things with Ethiopian food,” Gebreyohannes says. “How do I make Ethiopian accessible? How do I make it unique and different and give it flavors that people can relate to?”
The New York transplant says there’s nothing wrong with traditional, “mom and pop” Ethiopian restaurants, but sometimes navigating the menu can be difficult. “Menus are usually all over the place and can be intimidating if you don’t know the words, the language,” he says.
With that in mind, Gorsha fashioned a menu that’s not unlike other build-a-bowl restaurants like Cava Grill or TaKorean (its neighbor inside the market). Diners choose between the injera pockets ($9), little rice bowls ($11), and big rice bowls ($13). From there, customers select meat and vegetables before piling on toppings that range from the traditional (shiro sauce) to newfangled (berbere daikon, pickled cucumbers, and corn salsa).
This is Gebreyohannes‘ second business involving his heritage. He’s been selling Ethiopian products to Whole Foods markets and will continue to do so. He’s hoping the Union Market location of Gorsha is the first of many in the D.C. area and beyond. Gorsha has signed on for three months in the market but hopes to become a permanent vendor.
Visit from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, and check Gorsha’s Instagram account for secret dishes available on weekend mornings only such as smoked salmon served atop injera.
Gorsha, 1309 5th St. NE; eatgorsha.com