The Boston Phoenix
April 20 - 27, 2000

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Lentils for Lent, and other Ethiopian goodies

by Jessika Bella Mura

on the cheap
  • Darwin's Ltd., April 13
  • Joe Sent Me, April 6
  • Celia's, March 30
  • 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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