If you’re looking for an authentic experience at a good price, look no further than Ibex Ethiopian Kitchen. Start with a drink and an order of Lentil Sambusas ($3.95). Biting into the crunchy shell of these crisp, golden-brown fried triangles unleashes a fragrant, firm lentil filling with a nice kick. We paired the fried samusas with a starter salad ($6.95), which includes mixed lettuces, but most of it is chopped white onion and tomatoes with a jalapeno dressing.
In the drinks department, there are a few options. Tej ($4.95), often called honey wine or mead, is a signature alcoholic beverage made from honey. Ibex serves it in a berele, a traditional skinny stem bottle with a globed bottom; drinking from it makes you feel like you’re sipping from a potion bottle swiped from Snape’s classroom. Tej has a specific scent and is a sweet, yeasty beverage. Be forewarned, just because there’s no alcohol by volume listed on the menu doesn’t mean it’s safe for a lightweight! If you’re more of a beer person, check out St. George Amber ($4.45), which is like a meal in a bottle.
On to the main event! For the total experience, I recommend the vegetable platter ($12.95) and the meat combo ($14.95), which offers a taste of several dishes.
The vegetable platter is a riot of color, with scoops of all the veggies on the menu — you’ll fill up on tikel gomen (cabbage), red lentil miser, dinech wot (potato), tomato fit fit and bozena shiro (split peas). Each veggie was more flavorful than the last, and the red lentil miser was a table favorite.
The meat combination features beef prepared three ways: Key Wot, Kitfo and Alicha Wot, with your choice of three veg sides. Key Wot is a spicy cubed beef dish with deep flavor, the kind of rich savory taste that often accompanies a dish with a hearty tomato base. Expect a spicy bite with your first taste of Kitfo, a minced beef dish. It gets its kick from mitmita, a spice blend with a chili powder base. The third, Alicha Wot, is a little sweet, which eases some of the heat of the spicier ones.
One of my favorite things about traditional Ethiopian food is injera, a large (usually circular) spongy bread that’s the base for all meals. It’s like a great big sourdough pancake, with a flavor and texture unlike any other bread. It’s light, but it does an admirable job of soaking up the flavor from from kitfo to lentils. Injera is ideally suited to be eaten with your hands — the bread’s an edible spoon!
Ibex has a kids menu, in case your child may not be into new fare. So use your fingers, drink some tej, and experience a traditional Ethiopian meal.