Not surprisingly, the dominant color scheme is . . . red! Which somehow gives the restaurant a friendly glow. Even the big travel-bureau-style posters of Ethiopia that line the walls look inviting.
The crowd features lots of non-Ethiopians, even on weeknights, which are busy. Red Sea is one of the best known of the legions of Adams Morgan's Ethiopian restaurants, and so it attracts the curious as well as the connoisseurs.
The menu is extensive and can be a bit overwhelming if you're not sure what you're looking for. One dish that's a house favorite but rarely gets ordered is lega tibs in spicy awaze sauce. It's tender and perfectly seasoned with onions, chili peppers and black pepper. Kik wat, or yellow split peas, is exotically enlivened with ginger root and nutmeg. Beware the temiser azefah, though, which is a green lentil puree with ginger, garlic, hot chilies and mustard: too many competing flavors.
This is a cheery, comfortable place to come with a group of friends. As the menu notes, eating off the same plate (as Ethiopians do, and as the food here is served) is "a sign of mutual respect and trust."
-- Lisa Dickey