Reviews on Yelp were scrutinized. Serious contemplations followed. Then we gave in to speculation and made the long journey from Bothell with our friends S & C and their adorable doll D, to this eerie neighborhood for dinner, last night.
We reached there around 8:30 pm. There was one other family having dinner in this run of the mill, desolate cafe. The waitress saw us and gestured to a couple of tables as if telling us to sit where ever we wanted to. No greeting, no smile. We grabbed a table and menus were handed over. The owner Zeke came over and asked if we would like anything to drink. Just water, we said. Wow...quite a big menu, I say. Let's flip through...blank.....blank.....blank...ah...finally..there it is, a one page menu on the back. We chose an entree and thought Sambusa would be a good start.
Zeke came back.
Zeke (to us) : Are you ready to order?
A : Yes, we will first have the Sambusa.
Zeke (Smiling and nodding his head): No sambusa....only lunch and dinner.
All (in chorus) : No sambusa?
Zeke: No...may be next time when you come, we will make sambusa for you.
(As if all was so impressive till now and we would want to go back there.)
A: How about the appetizers?
Zeke ( smiling and nodding again...): No.....only lunch or dinner.
Me: Do you have the veggie combo?
(S does all she can to control her laughter)
Zeke: Veggie combo, yes.
A : Ok...we'll have the veggie combo then.
Zeke: 2 Combos?
A: Yes, please.
And then we waited for the food and looked around. The other family left by then and we were the only people there. On one side there was a TV that was playing some Ethiopian channel and on the other side there was a loo. And yes, there was something that looked like a bar in front of us.
The food came. Looked good. Injera...where art thou?
A gestured to the waitress and asked for Injeras. She brought four, one for each of us and disappeared. But, err....we were five of us. D wants one too. So, we waited for her to make an appearence to ask for the fifth Injera. Ofcourse, she brought one more. But it was kind of awkward to ask for more. We asked the waitress what each of the veggies were and she ran for help and didn't show up again for a long time. Help is none other than Zeke himself. Zeke once again materialised before us.
A : We would like to know what each of this is...
Zeke: It is vegetarian food
A: Yea (oh really?), but what are each of these?
Zeke (pointing to each one): Salad, Okra, Yellow Lentil, Channa Dal, Red Lentil, Cabbage, Beans, Spinach, Brown Lentil.
A: Ok...great, thanks!
We dug in. The Okra, Channa Dal, Red Lentil and Brown Lentil were spicy (not too spicy, just right) and delicious. The rest of them were kinda bland.
Me: Okra is good...
S : This cabbage is like hospital food.....bland....
C: Yeah, i don't think there is any salt in it......
The food was kind of better than most other places, I would say. Their secret ingredient is Oil (of course, that's what make it tasty!). Sorry, I dunno which Oil, but the Injera that had all the veggies on top, was soaking in Oil. There were 8 veggies, whereas most other restaurants just give 4, in a Veggie Combo. The Injeras were also at no extra charge. Just that no one came and asked if we wanted anything more (esp. more Injeras :)). One combo is good for two people.
When we were almost done, Zeke was back again. He wanted to know why the cabbage was untouched. Bah!
The waitress finally came over, pointed to the left overs ( mainly the said cabbage, yellow dal and spinach on the greasy injera) and said, "Box ?" And we politely replied, "No, thanks. The food was very good, though."
Then the check came. Despite reading the reviews about taking cash for tip, we forgot to carry change with us and A didn't feel like asking change for a 20. We asked the waitress about how to tip. She did the now familiar routine of calling Zeke.
A: How do we leave a tip?
A: Sorry, we forgot to get change.
Zeke: Can I swipe your card again?
Many Yelpers had said that he asked them not to worry about the tip and do it the next time. But probably, on seeing us he knew that we were not going to return anytime soon and so, scurried with the card :)
The food was better than the other Ethiopian restaurants we'd been to (Queen Sheba, and Lalibela). Both in quantity and quality. The price was quite cheap too - $12.50 for a Veggie Combo. The ambience was expected. But I heard that the food and the service make up for the ambience. Sadly, the service was below average. Certainly not welcoming. The waitress could not communicate (not just language, which is not a big issue; we've been to other Asian restaurants where they couldn't communicate), it was more the lack of communicating warmth/hospitality. Maybe because it was late, but she did not seem to be bothered about taking care of her customers and kept doing her disappearing acts quite frequently. And then the Sambusa :(. My biggest pet peeve is listing something on the menu and then saying "Sorry, not available.". Why can't they tell that when handing out the menus ?