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If you want to understand the difference between Meaza and every other Ethiopian joint in the area, just look down at your table. That spongy pancake dimpled with about a zillion little moonlike craters? You know the name: injera. Owner Meaza Zemedu makes her own in house, which, in a certain sense, makes Meaza the Ethiopian equivalent of Restaurant Eve, CityZen, Palena, and other high-end temples of gastronomy that bake their own loaves. These restaurants all understand you don’t put your bread service in the hands of inferiors. Zemedu, like any quality kneader, doesn’t mix just a single dough. One of her flatbreads is prepared with wheat flour, another other with traditional teff. The latter starts sour on the palate and resolves into an exotic nuttiness, so complex and so unlike every other injera that graces tables around Little Ethiopia. It’s worth the extra $2. The bread, like a generous squeeze of lemon, adds an acid note to almost everything you eat at Meaza. Try it with Zemedu’s generous mound of raw kitfo, as hot as its smoky firebrick color suggests but tempered with loads of soft Ethiopian butter. Or try it with her doro wat, as dark as mole, which is just about the only local version of the so-called Ethiopian national dish that deserves the honorific. Or try it with one of the dishes that hasn’t yet entered the regular rotation along 9th Street NW, such as Zemedu’s slabs of raw cow round served with awaze sauce, which is evidence enough that dining at Meaza may be the closest thing Washington residents have to tearing flatbread together at a small, ceremonial dinner in Addis Ababa.
5700 Columbia Pike, Falls Church (703) 820-2870
Photo by Darrow Montgomery