1/2 I’ve frequently suspected as much, but now I’m convinced that my timing is hopelessly off kilter. From now on whenever I get the urge to dine out, I’m going to wait 45-minutes to realign my bad luck.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve arrived at a restaurant, been quoted a semi-reasonable wait that eventually doubles, then get seated at the same time as another party that’s just arrived, crammed in right next to them only to have the entire room clear out within minutes. There’s something infuriating about being stuck only six inches from the only other patrons in an empty room.
Park Slope’s new Ghenet branch did nothing to change my exasperated view of the cosmos. Saturday night I was considering Korhogo 126 (primarily because it’s walkable from my apartment) but opted for straight up Ethiopian at the last minute. I know better than to attempt recently opened restaurants on weekend nights but I’m drawn to patience-trying situations like um, Marcus Samuelsson to new projects (trying to stay on point with the prettied-up African food and all).
The space is pretty, dimly lit, with lots of geometric cut out metal screens, and slightly incongruous on still-busted Fourth Avenue. When we arrived at 9:30 another couple was waiting at the bar and we were quoted a 20-minute wait. I could handle that. The staff seemed friendly enough, too. After ordering a glass of shiraz, the other duo was seated. From that point on not a one of the 12 tables budged despite numerous groups having finished their meals. On two different occasions our hopes were raised and we were promised that a table was about to open up…but no.
I should’ve just left. I think that should be my new M.O. because my heart can’t take it (I don’t mean that hyperbolically; not only am I newly diabetic but have also had inexplicably high blood pressure since my twenties. This past week I’ve been trying to get off my medication because it slows my heart rate and I’m convinced that it’s been messing with my metabolism for the past seven years. The downside is that I’m so twitchy and anxiety-ridden I can barely sit still). I’m so impatient that I practically had a stroke by the time a seat opened up 40 minutes later.
I don’t like to take circumstances beyond a staff’s control out on them, and rarely do (I just internalize it, hence the blood pressure) but what makes me snap is when everyone around me is oblivious and enjoying themselves when I’m being inconvenienced. It’s not about entitlement but about fairness. What tipped my indecision over being annoyed into full blown annoyance was when the threesome who’d been waiting 15 minutes that was seated directly next to us at the same time received apologies for the long wait and were served first while we were given no such acknowledgement for waiting almost three times as long. My impression was clouded beyond repair.
And eating while angry is no fun. Plus, James wanted to kill me because he had zero interest in Ethiopian food in the first place, ranking it down with Filipino food, which are fighting words because I’m totally an apologist for Filipino cuisine. But he swayed me a bit. I mean, after being traumatized and hungry do you really want to eat little blobs of mush with your hands?
I sort of did. I dug the injera, the slightly sourdoughy, chamois-smooth flatbread used as an edible utensil. I don’t know that they actually used traditional teff, as the grain is hard to come by in the U.S., but I was kind of hoping so since it’s a low glycemic product and I’m now all about blood sugar friendly bread-like items.
Sambusa, a.k.a. chicken turnover
We ordered a combo, which allows a meat and two vegetables per person. I quickly learned that wett means spicy and aletcha means mild. That’s all you have to know plus main ingredient to make a decision. I’m fairly certain that Ethiopian food in Ethiopia (and perhaps other parts of NYC) is genuinely hot. That wasn’t the case here, which didn’t surprise me given the location.
The dark mound in the center is doro wett, which is a little tricky because there’s a whole drumstick and hard-boiled egg in there. The presentation almost feels Malaysian, lots of complexly spiced scoops but on injera rather than a banana leaf, but the actual flavor of the chicken in particular reminded me of mole. It must be all of the spices working together and probably attributable to the berbere.
The top left is sega wett, beef, but despite the name wasn’t exactly the same as the chicken. The carrots and beans are obvious, lentils are in the front right and the two pools of an unspecified bean weren’t far off from frijoles. Yes, again with the Mexican food comparison.
I’ve long felt that I need to learn more about regional African food–I’m interested in Ghanian edibles–but other cuisines always seem to take precedence when I’m out and about. And after this underwhelming experience I’m afraid that I will have to convince a new dining partner to accompany me on my mission.
Ghenet * 348 Douglass St., Brooklyn, NY