2013 Fall Dining Guide
By Tom Sietsema
October 10, 2013
The area's biggest Ethiopian restaurant -- Meaza can seat 350 diners -- also ranks as one of its best. Ask for the vegetarian sampler (and you should), and out comes a shield-size platter lined with injera, a canvas for chopped tomatoes jolted by jalapenos, an electric slaw, garlicky collard greens and dabs of yellow and red lentils, both delicious. Meatier: kitfo, Ethiopia's version of steak tartare, only hotter (with mitmita, stoked with chili pepper) and more fragrant (thanks to cardamom and koseret, an Ethiopian herb). The menu's sleeper is preceded by a yield sign from the server. "It's spicy," she says of the sauteed red snapper shredded into a warm and zesty salad zapped with garlic, jalapenos and mitmita.
Animal skins painted with Ethiopian royalty lend a faraway touch to the room; tiered seating, movable walls and a dance floor speak to Meaza's appeal as a party destination. The service moves in and out of focus, and a few dishes are met with a yawn. Lamb tibs, for instance, is boring and tough.
Insider tip: The adjoining bakery is the source of most of Meaza's injera, the slightly sour pancake that cradles the food, including one style made completely with the costly grain teff. But the restaurant now also offers injera flown in daily from Ethiopia.
2008 Fall Dining Guide
By Tom Sietsema
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, Oct. 12, 2008
The difference between this Ethiopian restaurant and so many others is not just its suburban Arlington location. This establishment, named for owner Meaza Zemedu, is 7,000 square feet of dining room, banquet room, food store and butcher shop, with a stage for live music on weekends and walls decorated with a history lesson: portraits of Ethiopian emperors going back to the 1800s, painted on lambskins. The cooking aims higher, too. The most obvious example is the grain that goes into the premium injera, the slightly sour crepe that doubles as an eating utensil. The stuff is made right here, with the expensive Ethiopian grain known as teff rather than mere white flour. The treat adds just a dollar more to your meal, so be sure to spring for it. Use the injera to scoop up the "special vegi combo," a kaleidoscope of three lentil dishes: potatoes ignited with jalapeos, garlicky collard greens and deep yellow cabbage served together on a hubcap-sized platter. Or maybe the lamb tibs: cubes of lean meat sauteed with onion, garlic and ginger. Some like it hot, and rare, and for them there is raw ground beef blended with clarified butter, cardamom and mitmita, the blazing, brick-colored blend of chili peppers, black caraway, cloves and more. Yeow! And wow. The kitchen not only does the usual Ethiopian recipes well, but it adds beef cubes cooked in beef fat with onions, garlic and basil; and tilapia, which gets chopped into pieces and flavored with paprika, ginger and garlic. But you might not hear about them from the willing but halting servers who seem out of sync with the nightclubby setting.