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Any recs at Meaza Ethiopian

A friend and I went there last night for dinner, and I was slightly disappointed. Although it's only about five miles from where I live, it's the first time I've been there.

I was hungry (and my friend was paying!), so we ordered the Special Veggie Combo, the lamb tibs, and the regular kitfo, raw. Too much for two people to eat!

I'm certainly no expert in Ethiopian cuisine, but compared with the Ethiopian restaurants I've been to in DC, too many of the dishes were underseasoned and bland.

I don't know their names, but the yellow lentils, collard greens, cabbage and potato dishes were pretty much what I would have expected, although the collard greens had a more of a nice buttery flavor than I've experienced.

The dark lentil stew (misir wot?) was lovely, with a dark, deep complex combination of spices, that seemed like it had been cooking for days. Outstanding!

But the best of the veggies dishes were the tomato salad and the tomato fitfit, both excellent. It was such a pleasure to taste tomatoes that actually had flavor. I don't know what the "special dressing" that they use on the tomato fitfit is, but I could have easily eaten a whole bowl of that and been happy :)

The slight disappointments? Both of the meat dishes.

The lamb tibs weren't bad by any means, although they came out well done and not rare as we ordered. And the seasoning was IMHO rather timid.

The big disappointment was the kitfo. It had the nice fatty mouthfeel of kitfo with kebbeh, but none of the seasoning or heat that I've come to expect. Bland bland bland bland. Maybe they ran out of mitmita? Completely underseasoned, and a huge disappointment.

I know some people have complained about service in this restaurant. Unfortunately IME it's true. The service was very attentive at the beginning of our meal, but about halfway through, it got much worse. The lady that I assume is Meaza is incredibly gracious...as are the other servers, once you get their attention. But getting their attention is much harder than it should be.

My summary, based on just one visit: Convenient for us NoVans, but you can get better Ethiopian food and much better service in DC.

-R

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Meaza Restaurant
5700 Columbia Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041

Jul 02, 2010
spoon99 in Washington DC & Baltimore

Poutine, my cold weather craving

After I mentioned to one of my friends from Montreal how much I was missing poutine, she sent me a package with a packet of dried poutine gravy mix, a little bag of cheese curds, and a potato! It was pretty good, just not as good as it tastes in Montreal after a long night of barhopping in the middle of winter :)

Apr 17, 2010
spoon99 in Washington DC & Baltimore

Ray's The Steaks is a mediocre steak house at best.

You obviously knew what Black and Blue was, so why whine about it now?

Mar 10, 2010
spoon99 in Washington DC & Baltimore

Best bánh mì in NoVa?

Apologies if this has been asked before. I did do a search, but didn't find anything. Maybe you could point me to threads that I've missed?

For me, the perfect banh mi starts with the bread, which should have a nice crispy crust, but be fairly soft and supple inside. Toothy, but not chewy. Ba Le's is consistently like that. Only once did I get bread that was obviously from the day before, and was dried out.

I don't know if this means anything, but they seem to sell a lot more bread than anything else. Much of that to the Hispanic community, but again, I don't know if that means anything.

The particular choice of meat doesn't seem to make much of a difference, but the balance between the meat and the pickled carrots and daikon does, and again, they seem to get that right. Not too much cilantro, and just enough jalapeno to give a bit of a burn, without making you gasp for water.

I think their pate is best in their cha gio, which may not be at their crispiest after a few hours under the heat lamp, but the filling is earthy and unctuous, a perfect complement to a banh mi.

Other places like DC Sandwich are also good, but don't seem to have the same quality control/consistency. I've had a few sandwiches that were 90% vegetables, and once where they seemed to run out of vegetables completely and substituted cilantro and mayo (which seems like a good idea in theory, but wasn't one in practice :) )

So in short, even though I've gone about it in length, I like Ba Le not only for their quality, but also because of their consistency.

-R

Mar 04, 2010
spoon99 in Washington DC & Baltimore

Best bánh mì in NoVa?

I've tried most of the places in Eden Center as well as others that are local to Falls Church, and so far, Ba Le on Graham Road seems the best. Most consistent, although they can become confused when there are too many people ordering at once :)

Any tips on other places to try?

Thx,
-R

Mar 02, 2010
spoon99 in Washington DC & Baltimore

Moving to Columbia Pike...seeking all kinds of recs

I only went to El Puerto twice, so bear that it mind. The first time it was almost completely deserted (only one other table occupied) and the service was very attentive. The second time was probably on a Friday or Saturday night and it was packed, and as you mentioned, very loud and not terribly pleasant.......although it certainly felt like a real cultural experience. Sometimes it's nice to feel like a stranger in a strange land, two blocks from your home!

Agreed about the language barrier, but I can still get by on my shaky college Spanish. It's like the old cliché about traveling abroad, but a few words in their native language really does seem to endear you to restaurant workers (hopefully that didn't sound condescending.)

-R

Mar 02, 2010
spoon99 in Washington DC & Baltimore

The Four Worst Restaurant Etiquette Gaffes

Well, I think it is just good manners to cancel a reservation, if need be. It means the restaurant isn't kept hanging, probably holding on to a table, wondering if you're going to show up, and can free that table up for other customers who may be waiting.

Apparently I'm in the minority, since the last time I canceled a reservation at a fairly high-end resto in DC, the lady I spoke to was both surprised and seemingly thankful for the call.

I disagree completely with #4, and echo some of the previous responses. If it's a fancy restaurant, they play the 'philistine' card.......even if it's as simple as a braise of rabbit that's like 50% salt (yes, I'm exaggerating a bit) and completely inedible. More and more, when you complain about a dish (not because it's something you don't know or are unfamiliar with, but rather because it has been poorly/incorrectly prepared) you're treated as someone who complains just to get a discount or your meal comped.

And then it just turns into an argument, which turns an unpleasant dining experience even more unpleasant.

It seems to me better to avoid all the drama and post your experiences online. Restaurant owners that don't check out what's been said about them online are just stupid.

-R

Mar 02, 2010
spoon99 in Features

Moving to Columbia Pike...seeking all kinds of recs

I moved from Columbia Pike & S. Walter Reed Drive about a year ago, so my comments may all be out of date :)

Matuba used to be really good, and was in a few Washingtonian "Best Of" lists, but then it kind of lost it. The sushi is good, but nothing special.

Attila's had (and still has, was just there) great gyros, and some of the best pita bread I've ever had.

El Puerto and Abi's are both good, although Abi's is better. They used to have the best pupusas ever, but then something happened....maybe they changed the grease? My Family probably has the best pupusas in the hood.

I will echo the other posters' comments about the Cinema 'n' Drafthouse. Absolutely abysmal food. I've eaten pizza that tasted like Velveeta on cardboard, and theirs made me miss it.

I have to disagree with Ellen...I had one meal at Rincome and it was the worst Thai food I've ever had. They had obviously used exactly the same sauce on every dish, and the sauce was horrible and bland. Sounds like they've improved considerably since then!

But I'd still go for Bangkok 54....great food.

-R

Mar 02, 2010
spoon99 in Washington DC & Baltimore

Japanese grocery in NoVa?

I guess the answer is "no" :)

I was more specifically looking for some place that didn't just have the basic Japanese ingredients, but also things like fresh shiso and mitsuba.

I hope I didn't sound dismissive...I appreciate the suggestions and will check them out!

-R

Mar 01, 2010
spoon99 in Washington DC & Baltimore

Japanese grocery in NoVa?

Are there any?

I used to make regular pilgrimages to Daruma before it closed, and I know places like Hinata and Maruichi have taken its place, but was hoping to find something closer. There a lots of Asian groceries in my area (Falls Church), but the few that I've checked out seem a bit scattershot, in terms of Japanese food.

Also, can anyone recommend a replacement for "Hime" brand dashi-no-moto? It's the one that had real bonito flakes and kombu in what were essentially over-sized teabags. Much more flavorful than the hon-dashi "crystals" that seem to be available now.

Thx,
-R

Feb 28, 2010
spoon99 in Washington DC & Baltimore