Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Date Night: Etete and Indebleu

Dinner and a movie.

Nothing says going out on a date like those two activities. So like the 16 year old high school students we are, Apples and I ventured out this past Saturday to Etete, looking to expand our culinary horizons.

Etete is a neighborhood establishment, and a destination for young folks such as ourselves and families alike. Arriving at 7pm (with a reservation) we were seated immediately at a half table that juts out of the wall on the left side of the first floor. Seeing this as impractical, I asked the waitress to see if there was seating up stairs, which was practically empty.

After moving to friendlier confines, we ordered; sambusas - essentially the Ethiopian version of the empanada, but filled with lentils - for the first course, followed by kitfo - an Ethiopian steak tartare-ish dish - and a ton of veggie options.

The sambusas came out first. Light and flaky, the lentils inside had just the right amount of heat to them to warrant a sip of Diet Coke (a can of which costing $2 - stick to water instead). The dish could have been benefited from a serving of sour cream to cool the heat, but in all was a great way to start the meal off.

Now if you've never eaten Ethiopian before, you'll be surprised by the lack of utensils. Instead, the meal is eaten with a light, sponge-like bread that comes rolled up like hand towels at a hotel. The veggies, everything from greens to more lentils to potatoes, are also served on this bread.

The bread itself is great. Slightly tangy and very soft, it's not fantastic by itself, but with the accompanying meats and vegetables, the flavor really shines through.

The kitfo, which found its place in the center of our plater, was the star of the show. More than enough for two people (assuming you get other stuff), the meat tasted fresh and was wonderfully seasoned. While there were too many veggie options to comment on any individually, the experience as a whole was fantastic, and one that I'd do again.

The meal wasn't perfect however. Service seemed like it lagged at times (even though we were in and out in a little over an hour) and I got cranky when one of the patrons (or one of the owners, not quite sure) began harassing (though Apples would tell it otherwise) one of the families sitting next to us, but in all, Etete is worth the trip and the cost; something we'll definitely do again.

But you probably noticed something missing from that review: dessert. Opting to have dessert closer to the theater (we made the mistake of going to the one in Chinatown), we finally decided to stop in Indebleu and see if we could get a table.

Luckily, the lounge area was pretty much empty, and we were able to grab a table there and order dessert. I'd highly recommend doing this if you don't have a reservation, as you can order off of both the lounge and restaurant menu from the lounge.

The dessert menu is an impressive one, with plenty of dishes that were both ordinary and rather unorthodox. We decided on the "Spaghetti & Meat Balls", which consisted of saffron cardamom ice cream - strained through a pasta press (I don't know if that's the real name for the device, but that's what I'll call it), and with gulab jamun, which I'm assuming were the "meatballs" which were actually three pastries in honey and rose water.

What a fantastic combination of flavors. Sweet without being painfully artificially sweet, the texture of the ice cream and the "meatballs" worked well together, and resulted in one delicious dessert.

While we didn't see the actual restaurant space upstairs, we were both really impressed by the lounge space, which was open and surprisingly comfortable for being so posh.

Etete and Indebleu couldn't be further apart as far as style or cuisine, but when paired together with a Pixar film and a Saturday night, you just might have yourself one hell of a date.

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