On the all-knowing list (that used to be in the back of my car but now lives in Evernote), Desta Ethiopian Kitchen has been on there for multiple years. It constantly appears in lists from Atlanta magazine and Creative Loafing as the best Ethiopian food in town. I often wondered how big was the pool in which they swam, until I visited and found that there were three Ethiopian restaurants in site of each other and, upon Googling, more than 20 in metro Atlanta.
Never having tried this cuisine, I went in with no preconceived notions, explaining to the young lady that served me that I had never eaten Ethiopian food before but I was told that if I wanted to try it, this is the place. I further explained that I didn’t like peanuts or chocolate or pickles and I also didn’t really care for bitter greens but, otherwise, I was open to having her tell me the best thing on the menu. She asked how I felt about spicy food and I told her that I was good up to an “8” on a scale of 1-10. She had this dish prepared at “7” and it was spicy, but nowhere near hot. She then suggested that I definitely have the misir wot – spicy red lentils (stewed red lentils with a berbere sauce – which includes chili peppers, garlic, ginger, dried basil, korarima, rue, ajwain or radhuni, nigella, and fenugreek) and then asked if I liked lamb. A “yes” response brought me a plate of awaze tibs(a lamb and onion stew) served with injera (Ethiopian spongy flatbread – close up below). She did offer rice instead of the injera, but as I was looking for full cultural culinary immersion, I went for it.
She was very concerned as to whether or not I like the meal, returning to the table on several occasions to make sure that everything was okay. I greatly appreciated her attention but there was no question as to whether or not I liked the lamb – the dish was empty except for the chili oil. Next time, I will take the rice, however. The sponge bread was fine but didn’t win me over. A very interesting and different meal.