Monday, October 13, 2008
Introduction to Little Ethiopia: Rahel Vegan Cuisine
This is my first restaurant in Little Ethiopia and the third I've been to ever. Usually, I go to Fassica on Fairfax, a little closer and away from the crowds, but this time I wanted to follow a recommendation by blogger Teenager Glutster. He told me that Rahel made their injera (the spongy bread) out of real teff instead of wheat like some of the other restaurants. I was determined to try out teff injera, despite my abhorrence for vegan restaurants.
More after the jump...
Speaking of Javier of Teenage Glutster, check him out October 14th on the Bizarre Foods on Travel Channel at 10pm, along with Mattatouille and Deep End Dining. But back to my review.
Rahel offers several "juice" drinks native to Ethiopia. Not knowing what I was thinking, I ordered the besso barley drink. I don't like barley teas, I don't know why I thought I would like a barley shake. It was thick and definitely had the taste of grain, but actually helped temper the spices of the food. My girlfriend's suff sunflower seed drink was quite refreshing. I'm not too sure how they managed to juice a sunflower seed, but the result was thin, more like a nectar than a shake. The taste was exactly what you'd imagine a drink made out of sunflower seeds would taste like.
Besso & Suff
Between my girlfriend and I, we had the Vegan Feast for two. Out came the sambussas appetizer first. I'm fairly certain that Ethiopian sambussas and Indian samosas more or less the same thing. Maybe they contain slightly different ingredients, but they tasted the same. It also came with a slightly sweet green pepper sauce and a red sauce I swear tasted alcoholic.
The main course came with the fabled teff injera. It came with several menu items including: stewed cabbage, whole lentil stew, split lentil stew, yeatkilt (vegetable) stew, split-pea stew, string beans with carrots, zucchini stew, collard greens, tomatoes, onions and jalepeños. While I've heard that the wats (stews) were good at Rahel, all the various ones on my plate blended together. In fact, due to the stewed texture, I felt like I was eating a big plate of more or less the same thing. I understand that much of Ethiopian cuisine is the wats, but it's just not my thing to eat stew with my hands. I always end up filling up on injera, which seems to expand in my stomach throughout the meal. At which point, I stop with the injera but can't figure out how else to eat with my fingers. I'd rather have a plate of tibs, which sauteed has more substance. The long-awaited injera had a slightly darker gray coloring than the wheat I was used to. It turns out that teff injera is tougher in texture, but besides that, not too different in taste. Both share that fermented sourdough taste that needs a pairing, otherwise is too sour to eat on its own.
Considering how empty the restaurant was when we arrived, I would've expected prompter service. Things seem to move at a snail's pace at all the Ethiopian restaurants I've been to; perhaps it's a symptom of the cultural like how it felt when I was in Peru. It wasn't a bad restaurant, but I just can't give up meat--even for teff.
Rahel Ethiopian Vegetarian Cuisine
1047 South Fairfax Ave
Little Ethiopia, 90019