Is this the best you have to offer?. When we arrived to our hotel, we checked the tourist guidebooks for the highest-rated Ethiopian restaurants. We saw Meskerem, and it had the Zagat logo, and positive testimonial ratings on their Website from other news publishers. We figured that with the large Ethiopian community in Washington DC, and high ratings from the locals, we should try it. Ethiopian is one of my favorite ethnic cuisines, and I have tried many Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurants in the SF Bay Area. I was anticipating greatness to come from this place, and walking out with a fulfilled and happy tummy. We ordered vegetarian sambusa (which reminds me of an oilier version of an Indian samosa), and a vegetarian sampler platter. We asked them if they could make chicken tibbs for us because we don’t eat beef, and on their menu it showed that they make special beef tibbs, but they said, “no”. So, we played it safe and settled for the veggie sambusa and veggie sampler plate. As we were waiting for our meal, this silver-haired male server offered us some bottled waters; we accepted. He did this show and dance presenting us the bottled water, and poured it as if it was fine wine. We thought, o-k-a-y, this place has a lot of character, and accepted his display of service as a part of the restaurant’s ambiance. On their Website, they advertised that their sambusa was a dish, which, “… is lightyly [sic] deep-fried in vegetable oil to a golden perfection”. Yes, they are deep-fried, but not lightly. It was soaked in deep-fried oily goodness, and my partner and I needed to use napkins to absorb most of the oil. When our main course arrived, the portions appeared to be small, and the food was sparsely spaced apart to give it more of that effect. At the cost of $21 for a plate for two, this was overpriced; we were sort of expecting a little bit more, especially for a vegetarian sampler. The food served was luke-warm, and tasted like it came out of a can. What surprised me was this potato salad looking thing. It was ice-cold and tasted like an American potato salad that you would get in the deli section of a supermarket. In addition, it had been dressed with pickle relish and mayo. I was saddened that this restaurant did not live up to my expectations, and that the positive reviews of this place were misleading. I thought maybe the cook was just having a bad night, or that the servers knew we were not from there, and they gave us crappy food because they thought that we did not know better, and real Ethiopian people got the good stuff. What really disturbed us at the end of our dining experience there was when we saw our bill, we were charged $3 for each bottled water, which we did not requested and it was offered to us. I thought to myself…”seriously?” Is this how you want to represent your cultural cuisine? Is this how the people of Ethiopia eat? This is what they call fine Ethiopian food? Especially with a large community of Ethiopian in D.C., and advertised as one of the best Ethiopian restaurants that Washington D.C. has to offer? If that is the case, I prefer to settle for the West-coast version of Ethiopian cuisine, which is at least, fresh, flavorful, fulfilling, and hot when served.
Can't Miss!. Everytime I'm in D.C., I visit Meskerem and my companions are always impressed and grateful for the experience. The previous review sums up the food and atmosphere very nicely. Plenty of vegetarian selections. Prices are extremely reasonable and the neighborhood is usually fun.
Authentic Ethiopian Cuisine. My Ethiopian friend recommended Meskerem and she was right. Delicious doro-watt (chicken and eggs, eaten with injera ((sponge bread)). We had a great time eating with our fingers, sitting on cushions around a communal table of food. The berbere sauce was spicy and flavorful. Honey wine, while too sweet for most tastes, was a nice complement to the spicy platter of greens, chicken, and chic peas (similar to hummus, but thicker).
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