I would like to start off by saying that this is the first time we have had Ethiopian food. However, we're pretty adventurous when it comes to food and I can't think of any other country's cuisine that we haven't tried and enjoyed.
We went here today (a Saturday) for lunch. The place was deserted, although we kind of expected that. The dining room ambiance is ok. It was very dark due to the fact that two of the florescent lights were burned out. Also, the air conditioning was turned on high, so even though I was wearing a sweater I was very cold.
The service was good, I believe it was the owner who was waiting on us. He was very gracious and friendly. Even though he left the restaurant halfway through our meal, he did check on us before he left and the other waitress took care of us after that. One thing to note is that even though there were napkin holders on every table, there were no napkins in any of them and we had to ask for some. In a restaurant where you eat with your hands, you might need some napkins.
Having never tried this type of food before, we ordered the Lalibela Platter which is a sampler featuring both vegetarian and meat curries. It comes with the flat bread (which is more like a crepe than a bread). We asked for it to be made mild but we were told that the heat level was "set" and couldn't be changed. I thought this was surprising because at most restaurants you have an option of adjusting the heat.
The food took about 20 minutes to come. That wasn't surprising, I think it's typical for mom n' pop type places like this.
When the food came, it was on a big platter, first covered with a large piece of the bread and then decorated with the mounds of different curries, with another piece of bread folded on the side. I think the presentation was very nice, almost like an artist's palette, but the taste was another story.
Everything we ate, with the exception of one spinach-based vegetable dish, tasted like it had been made the previous day (or a few days back) and reheated. It was so obvious, especially when I bit into the chicken leg and it was stone cold inside. The platter that the food came on was also cold, so as we ate, the food cooled far too quickly.
As for the spice level, it was non-existent. Not just lacking in heat, but lacking in aroma or distinctive flavour. Each dish tasted just like the next one, and they all tasted bland. When the owner said the spice level was "set" I expected it to be spicy, as he seemed apologetic when he told us that he could not change it when we asked for mild.
All of these things were tolerable, but the thing which we couldn't stand was the bread. It was sour. I don't know what they make it with, perhaps buttermilk or yogurt, but it was distinctively sour and everything we ate tasted sour because of it. Also, the texture of the bread was very ineffective for scooping the food. I have eaten other curries with naan, roti, chapati, etc. many times and I can usually manage just fine, but this bread was too flimsy and soft to offer a good grasp on the food, it just fell apart in my hand.
There is no rice or any other option offered on the menu. If the owners are reading I would definitely suggest to add that to the menu, if we could have ordered rice I think our experience would have been better.
Overall the food was unappetizing and we just couldn't finish it. We were still hungry when we left.
One good thing I have to say about this restaurant was that it was sparkling clean, the floors in the dining room looked freshly mopped and the washrooms were also clean with hot water, soap and paper towels.
Since it seems that so many people love this restaurant and think that they serve good Ethiopian food, I feel that perhaps Ethiopian food is not for us. We certainly wouldn't be coming back here.