Etete - The new and improved avatar
The name “Etete” for longtime DC residents brings back memories of delicious Ethiopian food that was definitely popular for its traditional tastes and dishes that are seen in many Ethiopian restaurants in the area. Longtime patrons of the restaurant might have been disappointed that it closed, but I for one, am excited to see the new iteration!
Chef Chris seeks to introduce to diners the tastes of his approach to modern global cooking with a focus on flavors from Africa – the first of its kind to break out from the traditional Ethiopian mold around here. Of course, they still pay homage to the Etete name and the Ethiopian restaurant history. I was excited to go see for myself what this all meant. And honestly, although I loved the previous avatar of Etete, I don’t think it’s fair to keep comparing a new restaurant to its past, so I’m going to just take it for what it is instead, which is what I did at dinner as well.
As for the restaurant itself, the new space sports a modern and clean look, with a small bar area. The table by the window is probably a coveted one, but try to sit there if you can. My first choice with the cocktails was the “Fire and Spice” – bird’s eye chili gin, fresh lime juice, fresh orange juice, cayenne, but sadly they were out of it as they did not get their orange supply for the day to make the OJ! But that means they take the fresh part of the fresh OJ seriously, which is good! Anyway, I ended up getting the Golden Coconut which reminded me of the Puerto Rican coquito, but much lighter and enjoyable in the summer. Another drink that caught my eye is the 24 Karat- a combo of tequila, St Germain, passion fruit, fresh carrot juice, and chili syrup. Its bright color is stunning and although I’m not a tequila drinker, I enjoyed this very much.
Pro Tip: Etete’s weeknight happy hour goes from 5 – 8pm with $4wine, $6 cocktails and a selection of food. Don’t sleep on it!
If you scan the menu you’ll find many intriguing flavor combinations. We started with the injera tacos. I was super skeptical about this because I couldn’t imagine how the spongy injera would hold up to the berbere chicken and collard green filling. As it turns out, they crisp it up before adding the fillings so it holds up pretty well. This is basically all the flavors of the typical Ethiopian platter, in taco form. Delicious.
We also tried the black eye pea fritters which came with a spicy palm peanut sauce. The fritters are just black eye pea – typically I find these to be just mush, but at Etete they were not. Crispy outside, soft and creamy (and not mealy!) on the inside, I could easily pop a few of these back with a cold beer alongside. The shreds of ginger were a good complement to the fritter and the creamy sauce.
Next up was the spicy and absolutely wonderful chicken "doro wat". The flavors in this were on point, as was the chicken. This dish is also a hearty and large portioned dish, and comes with injera to dip into the stew.
The beef tartar kitfo with cheese, egg, and a farmers cheese came with injera chips to scoop it all up. Firstly, the injera chips need to be sold in a bag. In terms of this dish, not my favorite as it was a tad dry, but an interesting variation on the typical Ethiopian kitfo (raw beef with a spiced butter). Those chips though -I was sopping up all of the chicken doro wat stew with them!
For me, the piece de resistance was the 'Teriyaki Crispy Beef' 'Derek Tibs' - crispy slices of beef in a soy glaze with onions and jalapenos. Oh my god. This proved to be an epitome of flavor with a deep and intense soy flavor that was spicy, sweet and tangy. The best dish of the evening. (It also reheats really well, btw as I can attest to after taking leftovers home).
They also have a “Then and Now” platter which showcases some of the items from their current menu as well as some favorites from Etete’s prior life. I did not try this during my visit but it would be a gret choice for a larger group! Another large format platter includes all the vegetables and lentils served with injera – another good choice for those want to stay the typical Ethiopian route.
Dessert was also a special treat – the almond and cardamom cake with housemade chocolate gelato and meringue was a wonderful mix of textures and a unique combination of tastes. A joy to eat!
Huge Kudos to Chef Chris for his creativity and willingness to take some risks. He’s also a super fun and interesting guy to talk to, and really gives you a sense of the thought behind his dishes and his inspiration. In just the last few weeks since I’ve been there, he’s made a few additions to the menu, which I’m going to have to go back and try!
Visit their website here for more details and to make reservations. Don’t out on what is truly a delicious and interesting experience.