Sunday, July 31, 2016

Restaurant Review: Chercher Ethiopian Restaurant - Washington DC

Work Travels made Fun

A couple of sites along the way. . .

This past week I attended a conference in Washington DC and had come to terms that most of the trip would be spent in lectures and workshops in a hotel. I was pleasantly surprised that the conference was set up in such a way that there was ample opportunity to also see some of the sites in the area, as well as time to experience some of the local restaurants.

Thanks to a friend, who is a real foodie, who provided me with recommendations for what we should try. Sometimes, when you share a blog you let others know how passionate you are about food. This friend was interested in the OWL and had read my review which lead to a conversation about his upcoming trip to NYC, and my plans in DC. As he had recently been in DC earlier this year, he was able to provide me with a list, as well as some detailed impressions of his experiences, which guided me in what to pick with limited time.

Our first real stop, as a group was Chercher, an Ethiopian restaurant that was about six blocks from my hotel but across the street from where my friend was staying. Washington DC apparently has a large Ethiopian community, and many restaurants, as one of the people in my group has actually dined by herself at another Ethiopian restaurant the night before. Additionally this restaurant was next to another Ethiopian restaurant located on the corner. 

I had been warned that we would be traveling to a basement that was more of a café than a restaurant but upon arriving, we noticed you had the option to go down, or up, and we chose up. It seems that maybe this was a recent addition to the space as the website boasts about the new bar, complete with liquor? In any event, we went early and were able to get a seat right away.

The menu has many options but we decided to order the vegetarian deluxe platter, with ten of the eleven items listed in the vegetarian portion of the menu. We also added the two meat specials of Kifto and Beef Tips. The prices here are extremely reasonable. The platters are one fixed price, and served the four of us generously. The kifto was a puree of finely chopped sirloin that was almost a chili without beans, with lot of spicy chili powder, served with homemade cheese and sauces. The beef tips were reminiscent of fajita style beef, with jalapenos and onions. 

While the meats were good, the vegetables were what really shined. The Fosolia Be Carote featured fried green beans and carrots that were flavored with tomato, garlic, ginger and peppers and was commented on by our entire group. The Qey Sir was cooked beets that had been diced and were naturally sweet with a bit of savory flavor, and they were also quite good. We also especially liked the two different lentil varieties served, along with the yellow peas. The salad was a little disappointing, as it seemed to be like any run of the mill salad, but there was plenty to eat so we just moved around it. 

All of the items were placed on one platter, lined with the special Ethiopian bread, called Injera. This is similar to the Blue Nile located in Ferndale, Michigan so this wasn’t a surprise to some of our group who are veteran Ethiopian diners. However, this bread was darker than we were used to, but just as delicious. It should be noted that eating with your hands can be fun! Here there were chairs to sit close to the table, rather than the stools we were used to, as well as the basket table locally.

We also ordered an appetizer of Samboosas, which were similar to Samosas from Indian restaurant visits. The dough surrounding the spicy lentils was flaky, like a phyllo, and there was a substantial amount of filling. I would be fine with being a vegetarian if I always had such hearty delicious options to eat.

To me, the sign of a good restaurant is to see diners visiting that I assume are also from the same region of the world as the food. While it’s an assumption, I think that many of those around us were of Ethiopian descent and the table next to us received a platter that was definitely not on the menu. When we asked what it was, they rambled off some names of dishes I had not heard of before and explained that they were made of raw meat. They offered to share but I have to admit I was a little hesitant to try them with already having a full stomach of delicious food.

This is a great place. I would definitely visit again on another trip to DC. Warm wait staff, hearty portions, and reasonable prices.

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