Lentils for Lent, and other Ethiopian goodies
by Jessika Bella Mura
The waitress tells us that Fasika means "feast" in her native Amharic, and then
adds that she herself won't be feasting until the end of Lent. For many
Ethiopians, the Lenten fast means vegan cooking, and there's plenty of that in
Boston's newest Ethiopian restaurant, which opened just about a month ago in
the space of the former Blue Nile.
Lentils figure prominently on the menu, whether in azefa ($2.75), a mustardy
cold salad with onions and green chilies, or yemisir wet ($6.75), which is made
with berbere, a smoky and complex chili powder. (A bar patron indulges our
curiosity, explaining that this spice blend is the bedrock of Ethiopian cuisine
and that making it "is an art unto itself.") It's just one of umpteen dishes
given the berbere treatment, including catfish (fasika fish, $8.95) and lamb
stew (yebeg wet, $7.95). Everything's sopped up with injera, the mildly sour,
spongy flatbread that serves as both accompaniment and utensil -- this is the
original "finger food," after all.
Instant regulars have already staked out the lounge in front, and past the
archway depicting a hut from "back home," small groups assemble for dinner at
standard tables and traditional woven-straw mosobe. As the chatter percolates
up through the loping rhythms from the stereo, you realize that, fast or no,
it's a party.
Fasika, located at 23 South Huntington Street, in Jamaica Plain, is open
Tuesday through Friday from 4 to 11:30 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from
2 p.m. to midnight. Call (617) 731-3833.
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