Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Ethiopian Cafe in Pigtown

I wasn't aware of Baltimore's new Harar Ethiopian Cafe at 821 Washington Boulevard until just before leaving the Pigtown Festival last Saturday. After enjoying a meal there four days later, there's nothing about Pigtown that intrigues me more . The food is for real and healthy to boot. Everything on the menu goes for less than $9.00

With three tables for two and a fourth table where four might squeeze in, this could be the tiniest cafe in Baltimore. The menu says they're open every day from 10 to 6, although I was welcomed with open arms as a walk-in at 7:15. Five Ethiopian breakfast selections are offered, along with seven Ethiopian lunch choices and limited non-alcoholic beverages.

Observing breakfast options on the menu of an Ethiopian restaurant was a first for me. One was an Ethiopian omelet featuring egg, tomato, jalapeno, onion , and Ethiopian seasoning. The breakfast that most grabbed my interest was Chechebsa (Kita Fir Fir), or thin bread (kita) pieces served with butter and Berbere. Although Berbere seasoning is definitive as a key ingredient to both Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine, relatively few of Washington D.C.'s myriad Ethiopian restaurants so much as mention it on their menus. Seeing Berbere noted with regards to a breakfast item at this little spot in Pigtown grabbed my attention in a big way.

My $8.99 dinner of Kitfo is pictured above and couldn't have been better. Kitfo is "beef tartar seasoned with herbed butter sauce and Mitmita." As at all Ethiopian restaurants, it was served atop injera, the moist and spongy bread accompaniment as well as single utensil for enjoying all Ethiopian meat and vegetable dishes. Included with the kitfo were side orders of chopped collards, a genuinely good chopped lettuce and tomato salad, and an Ethiopian cottage cheese preparation known as lab. Mitmita is another Ethiopian seasoning that's more tart than Berbere. It came in a plastic cup. While kifto is typically served completely raw, here the beef appeared to have been thrown on the grill for perhaps just a second. The results pleased.

Beverages listed on the menu are coffee, tea, juice, bottled water, and a choice of two smoothies. My strawberry smoothie would have been perfect if just a bit colder. Espresso is available, though not on the menu. Nor were sambusas, described on a sign as "spring rolls," either beef or veggie, for $1.25. Though too full by the end of my meal to try one I look forward to stopping by for a sambusa next time I'm in the area at lunch time.