As many times as I’ve passed through Little Ethiopia off Fairfax in Los Angeles growing up, I never visited a restaurant. And while I am willing to try all kinds of food, I never knew which restaurant to try because I did not know much about Ethiopian food and what to order. About 2 years ago, a family friend introduced me to Merkato Ethiopian Restaurant and Market located in that area at 1036 South Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90019 and raved about how great their fish was and how I had to try it. If landmarks help, it looked a few buildings down from the bakery Hansen’s on the same side. I tried it and very much enjoyed it which led me to share it with you. Fun fact, the restaurant is featured on the HBO show Insecure in episode one where Issa and her BFF Molly celebrate Issa’s birthday (I am a fan of that show as well)J!
From the street, the restaurant is distant than the others because it is painted yellow, green and red with a map of Africa on the sign. The one disappointment is that metered parking is scarce and they do not have a designated parking lot so you will have to pay for parking. There are two different entrances for the restaurant and the market. When you enter the restaurant, you enter into a fairly large room with tables along both sides of the room. The restaurant is decorated with what I am going to assume as Ethiopian décor of very vibrant colors and umbrella light fixtures hanging from the ceiling. The restaurant is clean but the age of the restaurant and décor take away from the cleanliness factor. Not to mention that the restroom area left a bit more to be desired. As a daughter of a construction general contractor, I think this may be a renovation issue more than a cleanliness issue. But let’s move on to the food.
During each of my visits, the waitresses were very friendly and helpful. I like to start with an appetizer to maximize my tasting experience but there were not much of an appetizer selection to choose from. In the back of the menu, I found the Yemisir Sambusa ($2.99) which is a pastry stuffed with special lentils. There one stuffed with meat, listed on the menu, but during both visits when I request it, it was not available which is rather annoying. (sambusa aka samosa is a fried or baked pastry dish with a savory filling such as spiced potatoes, onions, peas, lentils, noodles, or meat.) Because I am a huge fan of empanadas, I figured that I would enjoy this dish since it was basically the same concept. I liked it very much though I wished that it was meat instead of lentils.
The fish dish that my friend and I both enjoy is called the Asa Tibbs ($15.99) which includes a whole white trout fried fish served with lentils, fresh tomatoes, collard greens, and cabbage. I usually ask for double cabbage since I do not like collard greens and it is not an issue. The entire dish is served on top of injera (an East-African sourdough-risen flatbread with a unique spongy texture made out of teff flour) and additional rolls of the injera are provided for you to eat your meal with. During my first visit, I did not request silverware and ate most of my meal with the bread but found myself stuffed. During my second visit, I got a fork and enjoyed the beans and vegetables without the bread. The fish is served freshly cooked and is flavored wonderfully with a nice crunch and a squeeze of lemon/lime only enhances the flavors. I thought that I would be uncomfortable with a whole fish on my plate, with its head, but I was not bothered at all! The cabbage has wonderful flavor and both of the different lentils were very well seasoned. I did not find my meal to be too spicy. The tomato side basically resembled salsa and was good with the fish or the injera but I often just leave it behind.
While the food may not look as we would accustom to, this these dishes are amazing. You have to be willing to try something new and have a different experience. You will not be disappointing. Here are a few additional pictures taken from their website:
Overall, I after going to another Ethiopian restaurant in Baltimore and having a similar meal, I enjoy this place because the size of the fish is generous and worth the price. The vegetarian side dishes are also amazing, and the service is wonderful. My meal is usually about $30 after tax and tip and I am always left satisfied. Still looking for a similar experience in Baltimore though my one experience was close. The following is my Seven Mac Score for the restaurant:
Merkato Ethiopian Restaurant and Market
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Please look of my next post as I share more dining experiences in and around Baltimore and DC, and my trip to Los Angeles. Also, you can find me on Instagram @finediningdiva and twitter @moderndaybeauty. Also, if you would like to follow my blog to receive notification when a new blog is posted, please send your email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
And remember: It’s a BIG world and we are going to eat our way through it!