No cuisine reminds me of the pleasures of communal dining as much as Ethiopian food does.
There is something humbling about eating with one’s hands among a group of people tearing injera bread and digging into piles of hearty vegetarian stews and smoky, grilled meats. The custom has a natural rhythm to it, and there’s an etiquette inherent in each transaction, as diners pass plates and napkins while waiting for their turn to scoop up lamb tibs and doro wot.
This also is the highlight of dining at Addis NOLA, a new Ethiopian restaurant in Mid-City.
Biruk Alemayehu opened the South Broad Street spot in March, taking over the location that formerly housed Creole restaurant Chef D’Z Cafe and before that was the original location of The Big Cheezy. The restaurant is a family-run affair and feels casual and welcoming, though the aesthetics of the space are plain. The sparsely decorated dining room does not reflect the colorful and artfully composed platters from the kitchen.
Ethiopia’s staple leavened sourdough flatbread, injera, is spongy, sour and pockmarked with bubbles, and is used — instead of silverware — to pick up stews and other dishes. Those familiar with the cuisine will recognize many of the classics, though dishes such as tartare-style raw beef kitfo may be new to some. Samosas are greasy but still a nice start to a meal here, filled with a warm mix of lentils, ground beef or collards. Similar to a stir-fry, godin tibs features short ribs that are fried and then charred on the grill and combined with tomatoes, onions, jalapenos and rosemary. It is served with jasmine rice, which sops up all the delicious juices.
One of the county’s best-known dishes, doro wot, is not to be missed. The butter- and onion-rich stew cooks for hours and is fragrant with garlic, ginger and the cuisine’s hallmark berbere spice blend. Thick hunks of chicken and hard-boiled eggs sit in the deep crimson-colored sauce, which carries ample but manageable spice.
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Many dishes feature warm spice but some items are fiery. The fermented quality of the injera cools the palate with a sour tang while ayib, the fresh curdled cheese that accompanies the doro wot, offers a tart and creamy counterbalance.
The menu has several meat selections, but it’s got a bounty of options for vegetarians, who easily can cobble together a substantial meal. A good deal is the veggie combo ($11.99), which is enough for two people to share when paired with a starter.
Garlicky collard greens are cooked with ginger and onions, while a vinegary cabbage medley includes potatoes and carrots and is slick with oil. A dish of red lentils is packed with ginger and red chilies, and a soothing, porridgelike spread of yellow split peas is buttery and flavorful though a bit salty. Shiro, a silky puree of chickpeas and tomatoes cooked until smooth, is one of the more flavorful dishes.
New Orleans has been home to a few Ethiopian spots through the years, and Addis NOLA is a welcome and flavor-packed addition to the city’s restaurant scene.
424 S. Broad St., (504) 218-5321
lunch and dinner daily
doro wot, shiro
classic Ethiopian cuisine in a casual Mid-City setting
The Decatur Street location has a bright dining room decorated with gold arabesque designs that extend from the walls and light fixtures to the tabletops.