Ethiopian cuisine has always eluded me. Between the dollops of wot and the heap of tib, the center of the table always look dotted with dog feces. Not trying to ruin an entire nation’s culinary pride but.. let’s think about this: Lucy, the most complete fossil of Australopithecus was found in Ethiopia. Supposedly marks of earliest human existence is found in Ethiopia and… these plates topped with small rondels of brown mush (it’s usually brown or dark brown due to the use of berbere) is the best that the native cuisine can offer after 250,000 years of Homo existence?
You must be joking.
Case in point, the meat poo poo platter:
Don’t get me wrong. It never tastes bad. Berbere has at least a dozen spices and is actually spicy. But at Nyala (and majority of the Ethiopian restaurants in LA), there are just 2 main dishes of wonder. wat, and tib. If you remove the berbere from wat, you have the 3rd house dish: alecha. Imagine if all of French food consists of cassoulet, and bouillabaisse. That’s it. Imagine if Chinese food has only sweet and sour whatever, and kung pao insert-your-meat-of-choice. That’s it. You don’t get anything else. 365 days of stewed/stir fried poop. It’s “cool” for us Angelenos to hit up Fairfax for a culinary change of scenery. However, what I thought during my entire meal was: it’d suck to be Ethiopian and to eat this every single day.
Even the traditional bread service, injera, accompanying EVERY SINGLE DAMNED DISH, is quite ugly. Have you ever seen carpet padding? Injera looks like carpet padding, texture being nearly the same. At least it tastes better. Does anyone else notice injera, the way it’s served UNDER the main entrees at Nyala, becomes a doughy goop after it soaks up all the moisture? Just what we need, more poopy mess on your plate.
Now, having just offended 300,000+ Ethiopian-Americans in 1 fell swoop, I do have to say that the honey wine, ubiquitous to Ethiopian-American restaurants, is awesome, at least to this n00b wine palate. It’s like moscato d’asti, ie, an automatic panty dropper, but Ethiopian.
I have this theory: just like Manhattan’s Little Italy, LA’s Little Ethiopia has some of the worst Ethiopian food known to Ethiopians. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) my tongue just doesn’t have enough heart to actually turn this theory to a theorem.
PS: Nyala’s final fall from grace? Surimi in the seafood combo. Ya know, the fake crab meat that’s in every california roll? Yup. It’s in the seafood combo. Not sure when the natives started eating surimi but… ICK.
Nyala Ethiopian Cuisine
1076 South Fairfax Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90019
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