There is no shortage of tasty Ethiopian restaurants in New York City. Finding one in Fairfield or Westchester Counties is an entirely different story. This is why stumbling upon Lalibela was such a treat. Nestled in the small town of Mt.Kisco, in a shopping center between Banana Republic, Body Works, and a sushi bar, sits this small restaurant. A single sign hangs over top the door, two large windows to either side. Start with the decor: small tables, all aglow with tea candles. The lighting dim, providing an intimate atmosphere, though not one the breathes romantic. A stocked bar sits towards the back of the restaurant, plenty of seating for the solo guests or those wishing to escape the traditional table. Looking into the kitchen, you see a woman preparing the evening's food. Music was absent, or on a perfectly low setting, allowing the evening diner to enjoy their dining companions and the food.
Kick things off with traditional Ethiopian beer and Tej, Ethiopian honey wine. Tej is a specialty of Ethiopia, involving fermented honey and a special kind of hops called gesho. It is a sweet wine, high in alcohol content, that packs quite the punch unbeknownst to most. Luckily, at $9 a glass, throwing these back was not the most financially sound decision.
Ethiopian meals typically consist of spicy vegetables and meats, or wat, served over top injera, a sourdough flat bread. Food is eaten communally, sans utensils. The injera serves as the utensils for one's dinner. Tear off a piece of injera, scoop or pinch up your meal, and carefully transport the stewed meats and vegetables into your mouth. The injera soaks up the juices of the food placed on top, resulting in an incredibly tasty, albeit filling, finale to your meal.
Starting off with an appetizer, we were served the avocado salad, unexpectedly placed on top of injera. Fresh avocado, jalapeno, tomato, red onion and a house dressing were mixed together to form this uncooked salad. Strikingly different than traditional Ethiopian fare I had consumed in the past, I was pleasently surprised with this dish. In fact, it may have been the highlight to this meal.
A first glance at the menu and it appears to come up short in choices. Ten meat entrees and six vegetarian, selections seem minimal at best. What they miss in variety, they make up for in performance. If you are unsure of what to order, a table of two could easily split the Taste of Lalibela. At just $22, this combo includes three meat entrees and a choice of three vegetarian entrees. We were served Siga wat, Yebag wat, Doro wat and a choice of three vegetarian dishes, of which we chose Gomen, Shiro wat and Misir wat. The food was flavorful and spicy, though not eyes watering spicy. Our six choices were on par with past Ethiopian meal experiences. The shiro wat and misir wat were filling and full of the smokey flavor I have come to love and associate with Ethiopian eating. Of the belief that collard greens can be severely butchered, the Gomen, a dish of shredded greens cooked with garlic and onion, did not disappoint. Doro wat, Lalibela's signature dish of chicken legs over berebere chili sauce, served with a cooked egg, came through too. The chicken was moist and tender, falling off the bone as it was grabbed with the injera. The berebere chili sauce, a combination of multiple spices, served up just the right kick. If a spicier taste is desired, an Ethiopian chili sauce, Awaze, is available to add a possibly desired boost to the wat.
Lalibela serves up a small dessert menu, consisting of Baklava, ice cream, and one or two more options. Satisfied and exceedingly full, we passed on dinner and closed up our tab. Our appetizer, two drinks and combination platter left us out just $50.00. Lalibela's ambience, tasty fare, and pleasent wait staff left us wanting more. Just thirty minutes from lower Fairfield County, I will be sure to visit Lalibela again in the near future.
Lalibela is located at 37 South Moger Avenue, Mt.Kisco, NY (914.864.1343)
Hours are as follows:
Tuesday & Wednesday: 11:30a.m.-9:30p.m.
Thursday & Friday: 11:30a.m.-10:30p.m.