We discovered Lalibela thanks to a friend who lives in the area, who'd seen it reviewed on "Check Please, Arizona." We're vegetarians who are always looking for great places to eat on the road, and when Ethiopian food is good, it's very good indeed, so we were very excited to give it a try.
We were not disappointed.
The first thing you notice when you step in the door is the enticing smell of berbere, the classic spice mixture of Ethiopia. If you haven't experienced it, let's just say that it's the kind of smell that says "really, really good food here."
We ordered two individual veggie platters, each of which consisted of three wats (stews) -- misir wat (a red lentil stew seasoned with berbere and herbs), gomen (stewed collard greens with garlic and onions), and tikil gomen (lightly spiced carrots, cabbage and potatoes) -- and a salad on a bed of injera (a crepe-like, fermented, teff-based bread), with a generous basket of injera on the side. The flavors were just wonderful...as good as any Ethiopian food I've ever had.
In fact, it was so good, we went back a couple of days later. This time, being major fans of all things legume, we added a regular "family-style" platter with double portions of mesir wat, shiro wat (ground peas seasoned with berbere, garlic and ginger), yekik alicha (yellow split peas with turmeric and herbs) and a single portion of the tikil gomen. So, so, so good! Everything was so flavorful, we kept picking at it long after we were way too full to eat another bite.
The atmosphere in the restaurant is very casual. It's situated in a strip mall, and has kind of a "hole in the wall" feel, but it's the kind of "hole in the wall" that everyone wished he'd discover...an unpretentious place that just happens to serve exceptionally good food.
Service was prompt and pleasant on both visits.
If we lived here, we would definitely be regulars (probably very fat, but happy, regulars!). As it is, we will definitely be repeat customers, should our travels bring us back to the area again.
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