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Originally published Friday, November 20, 2009 at 12:16 AM

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Dining Deals

Gojo: Ethiopian favorites, spiced with love

Gojo Ethiopian Restaurant on Aurora Avenue North serves up traditional staples (meat and vegetarian) that do honor to the form. Food is ladled atop injera, a spongy crepe, then eaten with your hands.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Gojo Ethiopian Restaurant

Ethiopian

13510 Aurora Ave. N., Seattle

206-365-3100

www.gojoseattle.com

Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Thursdays-Tuesdays; closed Wednesdays. The bar is open until 2 a.m. A DJ plays African, reggae and Habesha music Saturday from 11 p.m. to closing.

Etc: Visa, MasterCard accepted; ample free parking in lot; no obstacles to access; full bar.

Prices: $

Preparing Ethiopian food is a labor of love.

Spices are toasted, ground, blended into sauces and cooked with onions, meat or vegetables in pots that can steam for hours before the food is consumed between bits of tangy, spongy crepes that you eat with your hands.

Gojo Ethiopian Restaurant does honor to the form, serving up traditional staples from a strip-mall storefront on Aurora Avenue North. Samson Ghanna and his wife (and chief cook), Marta Petros, opened their restaurant in June and have been tweaking the menu ever since. Go on a Saturday for free coffee prepared in a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony.

The menu: Meat and vegetarian entrees ($7-$16) are served on enameled plates the size of a large pizza. The food is ladled atop injera, the spongy crepe that Gojo serves by the basketful.

We ordered two combination platters — one meat ($14), one veggie ($12), on the recommendation of our very patient server, who tried her best to answer our questions. The combos each included five items from the menu, and a small salad dressed with lemon vinaigrette.

Both platters arrived cold during our first visit, but even that didn't dampen our enthusiasm for several dishes. There were no such problems on a second visit: the doro wat (chicken and egg in a tasty red-pepper paste) was served piping hot.

What to write home about: The key sega wat, a sweet and tender beef stew, got better with every bite, building to a gentle burn that lingered just enough to stay pleasurable. My companion preferred the hotter kitfo — chili-marinated ground beef served with lab, a mildly sweet, soft cheese.

Veggie standouts included yellow lentils in a garlic-butter sauce, and chopped collards, stewed to an earthy and slightly sour flavor. The injera was addictive.

What to skip: The yebeg tibs (lamb stew with onions) was gristly, and the beef jerky in the firfir had a stringy quality.

The setting: A friendly, clean space evocative of a stylish gojo — or circular thatched hut common in Ethiopia. The spacious floor plan accommodates 13 glass-topped tables, a communal area that sits about 12, and a cozy bar.

Summing up: The tab for two combination platters came to $26, with enough leftovers for two lunches. Check prices before ordering from the bar: Two Ethiopian beers set us back $14.

Susan Kelleher: 206-464-2508 or skelleher@seattletimes.com

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