Ethiopic just opened behind Union Station on H Street NE, and the space and staff are as welcoming as the food. Mr. Luz and I sat in a romantic alcove with a large window, so we had a little privacy while also sharing the softly lit dining room and piano music with the rest of the guests. (Ethiopic is lined top to bottom with windows, and I can't wait to go there for a sunny Friday lunch.) Sam, the owner, accepted our ecstatic compliments on the food and the decor but said in the same breath "please tell us if anything changes, we are always looking for feedback." Everything was so wonderful, I think we'll just have to go back at least once a week to stay on top of that for Sam.
If you've never had Ethiopian food, you'll love Ethiopic. It serves richly flavored, spiced and stewed meat dishes with lamb, beef, and chicken and dark, delightful vegetarian dishes like curried potatoes with garlic, herbs and jalapeno, and split red lentils stewed with red pepper sauce. And yes, you eat with your hands. Like people used to do for thousands of years, until someone somewhere around 1800 B. C. (Before CrateandBarrel) decided to make a quick buck by telling folks that they should eat with metal shards. In a comparably civilized manner, at Ethiopic you pick up each bite in spongy injera (a soft, sometimes sour flat bread). And after you've scooped up the last bit of each dish off of your communal plate, you can fight over the large curried-potato-lentil-lamb covered injera that sat under it all. Mr. Luz always manages to distract me when this time comes, and he always gets the lentil-sauce-drenched section of injera. It happened again tonight, but make no mistake, I'm already plotting for next time. (And wondering if employing a wardrobe malfunction would be "so 2004")
On the flip side, if you're experienced with Ethiopian food, you'll also love Ethiopic. We ordered the Lamb Tibs, and the Vegetarian Platter for one (with 4 vegetarian dishes and the spicy lemon tomato salad) with crispy fish. Everything was cooked to maximize the flavor of the ingredients, meaning it was simmered so the flavors just melded without reducing everything to berbere-flavored mush. And speaking of the berbere (a fragrant and earthy blend of chilies, ginger, cloves, coriander, paprika, and other spices), everything was so fresh that each bite held one hundred flavors at once. Even their collard greens-a dish done so often that now when it's bad it's still okay-tasted sweet and fresh rather than bitter or bland.
Invariably, Ethiopic will go through growing pains as all new and ultimately successful restaurants do. But if Ethiopic's food continues to exhibit the same loving care and fresh ingredients that we experienced tonight, I predict that Mr. Luz and I will happily spend a good portion of our summer waiting in a line around the block for a table at our new favorite Ethiopian restaurant.