Addis Ababa: Oct 7, 2015 – Ethiopian restaurants share this with area steakhouses: As many as there are, you’d think one would get the formula — service, food, ambiance — right. Bete in Silver Spring won’t win any design or service awards. But the family-run establishment does some dishes so well, I’m willing to forgo comfort and attention for an hour or so in Addis Ababa.
Order the equivalent of steak tartare, kitfo, and out comes a bowl of seasoned, butter-drenched chopped beef to rival any for miles. (“You are one of us,” Bete’s co-owner said when I specify the raw version of the dish.) Ask for the minced tilapia tossed with onions and jalapeños and the reward is a warm fish salad that leaves a peppery wake.
But the greatest satisfaction comes from the “special” vegetarian sampler, a riot of three shades of lentils, garlicky collards, scarlet beets, snowy cottage cheese, green beans and the fierce spice blend mitmita presented on a silver tray, with a condiment of minced jalapeños and ginger. Per custom, the food is eaten with floppy folds of injera, one of the world’s most practical utensils. If the weather is cooperating, eat on the shady rear patio, an accessory that gives Bete (“my house” in Amharic) a leafy edge over the competition.