First Ethiopian restaurant at Meske in New York, New York!

The name of this restaurant was Meskerem and is now Meske, although even the menu mentions the old name....Meskerem is the first month of the Ethiopian calendar (so equivalent to January).

Ethiopian food was a first for me! My cousin Jessica loves it and talked few times about it so we decided to give it a try! I am not familiar at all with Ethiopian cuisine and just heard about it in different occasions:
  • First was in When Harry met Sally (1989) with Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan. Billy Crystal who plays Harry Burns says: We're talking dream date compared to my horror. It started out fine, she's a very nice person, and we're sitting and we're talking at this Ethiopian restaurant that she wanted to go to. And I was making jokes, you know like, "Hey I didn't know that they had food in Ethiopia? This will be a quick meal. I'll order two empty plates and we can leave." Yeah, nothing from her not even a smile. 
  • Then in Along Came Polly (2004) with Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston. The scene at the Ethiopian restaurant with the spicy food is hysterical! I tried to find if it was a restaurant in NYC, but could not find any solid information about it. I have to say, I thought about that scene before going, not because I was scared it would happen to me, but because I love it!
  • Chef Marcus Samuelson showcased traditional Ethiopian dishes in Top Chef Masters on Bravo TV. This was a bold move considering how different the flavors were compared to the other Chefs' dishes! For those who do not know, Marcus Samuelson is originally from Ethiopia and has been adopted by the Samuelsons, a couple from Sweden, when he was a child. He is today a very renowned Chef.
So we go to Meske for lunch: when you enter, you immediately notice the smell of incense. The decor is simple with bricks on and behind the bar and some traditional art on the walls. The service was courteous, attentive and efficient. 

We decided to go with combination platters. I think they are very smart to propose that because if you only try one dish and do not like it, you may think that all the food is not good. 
Combination dishes were served on an Ethiopian bread, called Injera, that is like a spongy crepe. They gave us two more. In fact you eat with your hands, using the bread to take the food from the plate to your mouth. There is no fork, knife or spoon (you can ask for it as did the table next to us). The bread was good with the meal, but did not have that much flavor alone.

Meskerem Combo:
it is composed of three meats (from top left to top right on the photo):

  • Yebeg Alecha: tender pieces of lamb marinated with butter then sauteed with ginger, garlic & curry.
  • Tibs wat: prime beef cooked in a pan, then sauteed with berbere (red chili used in hot stews). 
  • Gomen Besaega: a special cut of prime beef seasoned with garlic, onions and ginger, then finished with boiled collared green.
My favorite was the Tibs wat: very tasty and savory. Not hot at all. The lamb dish was kind of disappointing: it was a bad cut of lamb that was very tough. 
They also serve the meat combo with two veggie dishes (bottom left to right):
  • Miser Alech: split lentils dipped with ginger, garlic, onions, olive, curry.
  • Miser Wat: split lentils with ginger, garlic, onions, olive oil and finished with berbere sauce.
Both of them were really good and it was probably what I loved the most on the plate!

Vegetarian Combo:
This combination platter contained (top left to right then bottom left to right):
  • Miser Alech: split lentils dipped with ginger, garlic, onions, olive, curry.
  • Miser Wat: split lentils with ginger, garlic, onions, olive oil and finished with berbere sauce.
  • Not sure!!!
  • Broiled collar greens.
  • Shro Wat: powdered and highly seasoned chickpeas in berbere sauce.
  • fresh cabbage, potatoes & carrots sauteed with garlic, ginger and curry.
  • fresh string beans, carrots and onions w/ tomato sauce.
  • Not sure!!!
I have to say that the vegetarian combo was pretty good! 

The meal was delicious, whether I tried the meat or vegetarian combo. Each dish had its own flavor and it was a complete discovery. The lentils were supposed to be hot, but it was just a bit. When you see the plate first, you think that the quantities are small, but I can tell you that it is enough considering that you eat with the bread.

Definitely a great experience that I recommend! 

Enjoy (I did)!

Meskerem 47 on Urbanspoon