The Spot: Ethiopic Restaurant, 401 H St. NE, (202) 675-2066
The Cuisine: Ethiopian
The Go-To Dish: Ethiopic signature kitfo (raw, preferably)
The Scoop: Philly’s got cheesesteaks, New York’s got pizza, and D.C. has damn fine Ethiopian food, much of which I have had the pleasure to sample. I was curious how the latest competitor, Ethiopic, would compare to the established players in Little Ethiopia and beyond.
Situated on the corner of 4th and H Streets NE, Ethiopic is a chic joint, its style a microcosm of the creeping sophistication that has overtaken the Atlas District. Exposed brick, ambient lighting, and a visible and extensive wine rack (down to its Ethiopian blends) lend the restaurant a cozy but refined ambiance.
My companions and I ordered the signature kitfo, lamb tibs, and the miser wot (pureed split lentils simmered in a red pepper sauce). When I asked for the kitfo raw, our waitress gave me a double take and then double-checked to make sure I really wanted it uncooked. She mentioned that most patrons are weary of raw kitfo (the beef tartar mixed with a spicy butter known as niter kebbeh can be served either raw or cooked), but I reassured her that raw is the only way for me.
I wish our waitress would have been as worried about our wait times. Once she finally brought the food out, our orders arrived in separate bowls, which she then emptied onto a large serving of injera. Although each plate was about two or three dollars more than what you would find at Dukem or Madjet on U Street, the portions were also much larger.
I think it’s safe to say the kitfo here is the best I’ve tried — by far. Though raw, the fiery tartar was slightly warm and accompanied with in-house freshly made cottage cheese. The lentils were also good and came with a spicy kick of their own, which paired nicely with the slightly sour injera. The tibs however, were disappointing. The dish was perfumed with a heavy dose of rosemary, obliterating many of the other flavors.
The Verdict: With the exception of maybe Meskerem in Adams Morgan, Ethiopic offers the best Ethiopian I’ve tried. With most plates around $15, the quality of the food is enough to compensate for the money you might have saved by dining on U Street or Ninth Street NW.