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Friendly waitstaff delivers traditional Ethiopian fare
Special to The Seattle Times
The intersection of East Cherry Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way is to Ethiopian food what Fremont is to Thai restaurants. Ethiopian restaurants abound, and if you're craving injera bread and lamb stew, each place offers a different kind of bounty.
Ras-Dashen Ethiopian Restaurant is the biggest, brightest and newest of the bunch. The interior of the former church is cheery, and the owners try hard to overcome a sterile foundation of basic white walls by dotting corners and shelves with colorful woven baskets and massive jugs. Near the entry, diners have a choice of traditional, low tables and stools or Western dining tables.
Friendly, helpful service warms up the place. It's an initial bonus that segues into a necessity once you try to navigate the menu, which — despite extensive lists of ingredients — isn't truly helpful.
Ras-Dashen Ethiopian Restaurant
Hours: 11 a.m.- 10 p.m. Tuesdays- Saturdays, noon-10 p.m. Sundays, closed Mondays. Bar open until 1:30 a.m. Fridays-Sundays.
Drinks: Full bar.
Credit cards: V, MC, AE.
Accessibility: No obstacles to access.
The options here are typically Ethiopian, with an abundance of wots (stews), tibs (meat dishes) and vegetarian choices that lean heavily on beans such as lentils and split pea. The prices are reasonable, with most entrees in the $10 range.
Food is served the traditional Ethiopian way, with dishes spooned onto a huge platter of sour, spongy injera bread and extra piles of folded injera on the side. The extra bread provides a crucial assist when eating with your fingers.
Food varies between satisfying and ordinary. Order dishes with awaze, and the hot, red paste will come on the side and allow you to heighten your heat level. Awaze also brightens up blander dishes, like a side of collard greens.
The vegetarian dish shiro wot was the star of my meal, with its mellow flavor and light, creamy bean texture.
My experience with the meat dishes was mixed, but I didn't sample the entire range, which includes doro wot, a chicken stew served with hard-boiled egg, and kitfo, beef mixed with spiced butter. Meals come with a cooling side of salad, simply dressed, that is a fresh respite from heavy meat dishes.
Ras-Dashen distinguishes itself more in service and atmosphere than with food. While the surroundings may not vault you directly to Ethiopia, take pleasure in how hard they try.
Shiro wot: Ground chickpeas form the base of this vegetarian dish, which has an enticing, creamy texture and aromatic, mellow flavor. Scoop some onto a piece of injera and you have the Ethiopian version of comfort food. I couldn't get enough.
Yebeg tibs: Lamb is a classic meat in Ethiopian cuisine. Ras-Dashen's version is buttery and well-seasoned with garlic, onion, ginger and spices, but the meat was slightly tough and the dish was on the salty side. Temper the experience with bites of fresh salad that comes with the meal.
Doro tibs: Chicken is way outnumbered on the menu, but the doro tibs goes head-to-head with other meat dishes with the help of a zippy red sauce. You can add more punch with awaze, the hot sauce that comes on the side. And the chicken had an appealing seasoning that surpassed the lamb.
Itemized bill, meal for two
Shiro wot $7.00
Yebeg tibs $10.00
Doro tibs $10.00
Nicole Tsong: 206-464-2150 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company