Omnivore - Lunch at Desta

Desta is to Ethiopian as Cardamom Hill is to Indian


My friend Rose and I were on the way to Co’m for a Vietnamese lunch Tuesday when she said, “I wish I could convince you to go to Desta, but I know you don’t like Ethiopian.”

“I love Desta,” I told her. In fact, it’s probably the best Ethiopian I’ve ever eaten, as I said in a review a few years back. If you haven’t tried the “modern Ethiopian” cuisine of co-owners Titi Demisse and Ash Nega, you’re missing one of the city’s great ethnic experiences. The cooking here is to Ethiopian what the cooking at Cardamom Hill is to Indian: classic but unique in the ways spices are blended.

We had a gigantic lunch of three meat tibs (sauteed dishes): lamb, filet mignon and tilapia (photo above). The latter is Rose’s favorite, as it was when I reviewed the restaurant. The dish had changed somewhat this visit, with the chunks of fish being larger than usual. This decreases the volume lent slight crispness by the sauteing, but it also highlights the fish’s flaky texture and taste without domination by the spices. That’s saying something when we’re talking about tilapia, not a fish with a helluva lot of flavor.

The vegetable plate is a favorite here too, but I couldn’t visualize eating more. Injera, the sourdough bread with which one scoops up the food, always blooms in my stomach and makes me pretty instantly full. Maybe Weight Watchers could market it as the next miracle weight-loss food.