Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Ethiopian Restaurant Review Dukem

Dukem an Ethiopian Restaurant
The Ethiopians are Hypocrites.

I have the tendency to talk often to cab drivers as they Wisk me around my metropolitan home and most, like little stock tickers, have great insight into the latest and the greatest happenings in Washington D.C. If you think about it they really are like junior travel agents, able to advise old and new comers of the latest area attractions. One thing you will notice is the large populace of Ethiopian drivers. According to the unofficial estimate by the Ethiopian Embassy, Washington D.C. plays host to the greatest population outside of Ethiopia itself, boasting 200,000 people of Ethiopian decent. So with a great Ethiopian populace comes great Ethiopian food. What Ethiopian restaurant do most native Ethiopians suggest, including my friendly cab drivers? Dukem at 1118 U street NW.

Most U.S. citizens outside of some of the major metropolitan areas in the U.S. would probably conjure up imagery of a lima bean on a barley leaf when you told them you are having Ethiopian food an unfortunately if your in Ethiopia you’ll be lucky to get that. Ethiopia is one of Africa’s poorest nations. With $823 as their yearly average per capita income they are sitting gloomily at 173rd out of 179 nations listed by the international monetary fund. For comparison that’s about 1/50th of the United States per capita income which is $41,399. We all know that the rich pull that number up substantially, and it’s no different in Ethiopia the poverty line sits at about a dollar per day.

So you’d think their food may not be delectable to the palate, but perhaps the lack of supply makes the attention to detail much greater. Ethiopian food is served on thin sour bread called injera. It’s made of barley, tef, and emmer wheat. True to the traditions Ethiopian dining is a communal experience eaten solely with your hands. To be specific your right hand. The right hand is considered clean. I’m not sure why the left is not, but we’ll leave it at that.

Upon our arrival to Dukem restaurant we were seated by the window by a friendly host. The room echoes an Ethiopian lounge and is a local hangout for many of the local Ethiopian populace as well as Washingtonians. It’s not particularly polished but definitely has an authentic feel to it.
Upon being seated, several minutes later, we were greeted with water by our smiling waitress. We definitely laid it out there that we didn’t know what we were doing, and she was eager to share her native cuisine with us. We started with a native beer called St. George brewed by Kombolcha Brewery in Ethiopia. This northern Ethiopian brewery employs 143 people and occupies an area of 47,270 square meters. Pretty impressive that this Midwestern white boy is enjoying beer from such a far away land. This native lager is recommended drank on hot summer days and coupled with spicy food. It happened to be a hot summer day, and we were about to order some spicy food, so it was just what the doctor ordered. The beer has a golden body with a hoppy flavor. This native lager has sweet flavors and a dry finish. I found it to be a perfect fit for the combination platter of 5 veggies, regular tibs, lamb wot, doro wot and home made Ethiopian style cottage cheese. Tibs, the classic Ethiopian staple (at least here in the States), are cubed tender pieces of sautéed beef or lamb, typically cooked with tomato, garlic and berbere sauce. All of the items come out on a large flat piece of Injera bread. Injera bread is a staple of any Ethiopian meal, in many homes in Ethiopia it’s the entire meal. This flat peace of bread has a consistency of a crepe and is piled with the various spiced meat and veggies. An extra dish of Injera bread is supplied and you rip pieces of the bread and then use them to grab bits of meat, vegetables, and sauce.
In the native Ethiopian culture one would feed your fellow diners as a sign of affection. The flavors are rich in spices, which has a lot to do with the historical method of preserving meats in Ethiopia. Red pepper sauce, seasoned butter, onions, garlic, giner root, and cardamom are abundant flavors. Many of the dishes are ground, shred, or diced into small pieces to allow for you to easily pick up the food with one hand. Vegetables including split lentils, yellow peas, greens, cabbage, shiro, salads, and chickpeas in spicy sauce are full of color and rich in flavor.

If you’re open to new experiences and flavors Washington D.C. offers some of the best opportunities to sample authentic Ethiopian cuisine. There is also the great benefit of a strong historical background, a unique cooking style, and interesting dining manner all of which Dukem Restaurant captures rightly. So gather your friends its time for a new experience.


Blogger Jason's Food said...

I like Dukem, but it used to be a bit better. Have you tried Etete at 9th and U? Etete is my first choice for Ethiopian food.

11:34 AM  

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