Etete: Restaurant Review

One of my favorite things about living in DC is the high amount of international influence, both the people and the cuisine. The shear number of international restaurants is amazing, and for someone who likes to try new an exciting foods, this is one of the best places to live.

Ethiopian food is one example of an international cuisine that I never had the chance to experience before. Jay and I ate at Zed’s for an impromptu dinner one time, and it was great. I love how you are expected to eat with your hands, and it’s just an experience that you can’t really get anywhere else. When our friend Raheem visited us one weekend during the summer, I decided that eating Ethiopian food would be a good idea: we could all order different things and share. After reading the Washingtonian’s 100 Best Cheap Restaurants, we decided to go to Etete.

When we arrived at Etete, it wasn’t very crowded, but it didn’t take long for the place to fill up. The atmosphere was casual and welcoming, almost like you were going over to a friend’s house to have dinner, but a friend with a bar and waiters. The other groups of diners were lively, which added to the great atmosphere.

I tried the honey wine, an Ethiopian specialty, and honestly it tasted just like honey. That might not be the most helpful description, but it was both sweet and refreshing. Unfortunately, the waitress never asked if I wanted a refill. In fact, she didn’t ask any of us throughout the whole, long, extended meal whether we wanted a refill. She likewise forgot to bring us our appetizer, which was quite the downer considering that very appetizer had been recommended by a different review. When we finally got our food, it was very good. Unlike Zed’s, your entree choices are not accompanied by any vegetables, so if you decide to eat at Etete, be sure to order a vegetable dish along with the meat. We each chose different things, and each was succulent and delicious. At one point one of the other waitresses lit incense and presided over an intricate espresso/coffee service. We had ordered coffee, and because it never came, we assumed that we were privy to this espresso service (and Jay and I in fact got some, it was very rich and strong but also very good), but it turns out our regular coffee order was just taking so long we thought we had been forgotten.

In case you couldn’t read through the lines in that last paragraph, let me tell you up front what really bothered me about this meal: the service. I had read that service was slow, and that traditionally this kind of cuisine is eaten at a leisurely place. This is fine with me. However, what is not acceptable is that we were never asked for drink refills. Again, our waitress also forgot about our appetizer. Little mistakes are ok I guess, but I felt like we had been forgotten. After sitting for a very long time after finishing our meal (good thing we didn’t want dessert, because we were never asked), we eventually asked for our bill. Even though the food was amazing, it was overshadowed by the service. Even though this place was recommended, I wouldn’t tell anyone to go there, because I wouldn’t want them to have the same kind of experience that I had. In fact, I would tell you to go to Zed’s, where you actually get service.

While we were eating dinner, I noticed that Yelp gave Etete five stars. Based on the food alone, this might be the case, but when your incredible dinner is ruined by bad service, it’s hard to get beyond that and give your dining experience a high rank. Go for the food, but expect to sit there a while, and I suggest getting up and asking for a drink refill, or else you’ll probably never get one.

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