I don’t know how I missed the re-opening of Etete earlier this year, but I am damn happy I finally had a chance to experience the renovation. The venue itself has received a major facelift; the restaurant is now bright and modern, with gold and white furnishings, a sparkling bar, and bold red booths. The menu has also undergone a significant change. While traditional Ethiopian dishes are still featured, Chef Christopher Roberson has introduced a global element to the menu. Ethiopian food 2.0 if you will.
The small plates section of the menu blew us away. Don’t expect your traditional sambusa. Instead, Chef serves up a host of innovative appetizers, like green lentil spring rolls, made with whole and mashed green lentils, wrapped in a pastry and deep fried. An Asian sambusa! It’s pretty genius. While visually pleasing, they’re also crispy, spicy and delectable.
The injera tacos are equally as creative. Chef uses injera to form a taco shell which he then stuffs with red lentils, collard greens, pickled peppers and fresh cheese. Great for sharing, these tacos have a hint of acid from the peppers and a creamy note from the cheese. The black eyed pea fritters are pretty much the best happy hour snack ever; the crunchy outer shell, earthy filling and spicy peanut sauce unite to create the perfect trifecta of flavor and texture.
Other great small plates include the baby spinach tamale, yellow lentil hummus and pickled beets. The spinach tamale comes smothered in a smoky roasted poblano sauce, and the picked beets are drizzled in a woody, thyme infused olive oil.
Be sure to wash all your food down with a bevy of boozy beverages. The Fire N Ice has a sweet and spicy flavor profile with orange juice and a chili infused gin. The 24 Karat looks and tastes deceptively healthy due to its carrot juice, but there’s a surprise kick due to a generous amount of tequila. The Summer Sangria goes down quick and easy, and the Golden Coconut made with tequila, turmeric and five spice, will make you feel like you’re lounging on a picturesque Malaysian beach.
The desserts are equally worth your attention. We tried the pistachio napoleon and a concoction of grilled cake, fruit and dark chocolate gelato that was a great end to the meal. Be sure to get a glass of the famous Ethiopian honey dessert wine.
When Chef Tiwaltengus, the original Chef of Etete (and current owner) retired from her role as Chef, she passed her recipes down to Chef Chris. He kept many of them traditional and then transformed others to provide a more international perspective. The result is a menu that is innovative and interesting, way beyond the menu that repeats itself at most of the other Ethiopian restaurants in the city. Considering we have the highest population of Ethiopians in D.C. outside of Ethiopia, it’s surprising it took so long for such a cool Ethiopian joint to open, but, I’m sure glad it did.