Ethiopic is an upscale Ethiopian restaurant located at 401 H Street NE. Those critical of Ethiopic might point to its higher price point than most Ethiopian spots in DC and argue that you’re paying mainly for the ambiance. There is some truth to this; the ambiance is lovely with dim lighting and Ethiopic script on the walls. Unlike a place like Zenebech, it makes a romantic spot for a date (the messiness of Ethiopian food aside) and you can certainly get great quality food for a cheaper price at a place like Zenebech.
But Ethiopic‘s high-end character makes for a very worthwhile dining experience that goes far beyond the chic decor. While other reviewers of Ethiopic have griped about inconsistent service, my table’s server was attentive, friendly and helpful. The meal begins with a tasty wheat bread with a hot pepper and olive oil dipping sauce, and the drinks list is particularly extensive; while most Ethiopian spots in DC only offer St. George Lager, Ethiopic offers a list of several different Ethiopian beers, though only some were available when I went. There are also several Ethiopian wines plus tej, a Ethiopian honey wine fermented with powdered leaves and twigs of the gesho plant, which acts a bit like hops and lends a funkiness to the beverage. Unsurprisingly, this funkiness is not always well-received by American palates, so Ethiopic’s tej is sweet and very approachable. I personally prefer the funkier home brew at Habesha Market and Carry-out, but Ethiopic’s tej does make a pleasant accompaniment to spicy Ethiopian food, if the sweetness doesn’t bother you.
The full richness of Ethiopian food can’t be experienced without trying both meat and veggie dishes, but Ethiopic doesn’t offer mixed meat and veggie combos for some reason. As such, it is best to come here with a group and eat family style. We ordered a vegetarian combo, lamb tibs and kitfo, which is Ethiopian beef tartare served with a little cottage cheese and collard greens. The veggies were all delicious but the lamb, while very flavorful, was a little on the tough side. The kitfo, however, was fantastic and wouldn’t be something I’d feel comfortable eating at a place that wasn’t a bit upscale. Overall, Ethiopic is great- the atmosphere is great and while the food in general is similar what you’ll find at excellent hole in the wall places, you’ll find food and drink options here that you won’t find elsewhere.