When The Maltese Bacon first ate at Meskel, an Ethiopian restaurant, the couple who owned it – Tefari and Kassech Ayaiew- were trying to keep up with the Times stampede. Tefari, a former medallion-owning cab driver, confessed that it was too much – he had wanted to take it easy with this new restaurant. After all, their menu states humbly "It's just home cooking!" Fortunately, their cover didn't work and their food got the attention it deserves.
The couple had closed Star 49, a Southern food restaurant in Hell's Kitchen, before they opened Meskel. Now that things have settled down in their new digs, Tefari's ambitions are returning. He wants to expand the menu to include his old specialities. He claims to make the best fried chicken and the best mashed potatoes. And, according to him, everyone loves his meatloaf. He is an avid cook and has been doing it since he was very young. Right now, he defers to his wife, although he does pitch in with some of the cooking. "With Ethiopian food, she is the best!" he said.
TMB brought good friend Brian there the other day. He has been officially lumped into the "Ethiopian-eating friend" category, a group whose members TMB has been actively cultivating. His sole eating downfall, if it can be called that, is that he doesn't enjoy chewing on fat or cartilage. Otherwise, his record is clean, cleaner than the Bacon’s even. The order included the lamb with ginger and garlic and the vegetarian combo, a must have. The lamb was tasty, but a little too timid. It did manage to make Brian's top 3. TMB prefers their tibs wat, beef cooked in herbed butter. However, both parties went crazy over the split red lentils in a berbere sauce (miser wat), which was reportedly smoky and addictive. The chickpeas in berbere sauce (shiro wet), was milder but very comforting.
But really, most love the Ethiopian vegetables and legumes without fail. Who knew vegetables could be so mysterious and rich? And Meskel's injera bread.. fresh and fluffy, with the perfect sour note. The only teeny kvetch of note is that the dishes come so mild, but it is easy to understand that there is a business that needs to be run. However, they will provide extra berbere to spice things up, yum.
One should make sure to check this restaurant out at the earliest convenience.
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