I pretty much eat everything, but there are certain cuisines I like better than others.  And one cuisine I’ve tried and tried, but just never get too excited about is Ethiopian.

It’s a unique experience: going to a traditional Ethiopian restaurant.  First off, they don’t really offer you silverware.  In its place you get a very thin, spongy bread called injera.  You’re supposed to use this to scoop up the mounds of stewed meat or spicy vegetables on the platter.

Now I learned the hard way that injera can get dangerous.  It’s deceptively light and if you eat too much of the mild and chewy bread, it expands in your stomach and you’ve filled yourself to capacity.  I have a friend who even disregards tradition and eats this food with a knife and fork – just to prevent the filling up on bread problem.

The stews and vegetables themselves are generally very spicy and thick enough that I’ve always had a hard time locating the protein or legume.  I end up eating everything together but not really tasting much.  It could very well be my own lack of restraint, but I just never got excited about the flavors in this ethnic cuisine.

Once again TONY got me out of my comfort zone and forced me to go to a new Ethiopian restaurant called Bati in the very cute neighborhood of Fort Greene, Brooklyn.  The thing to order here was the Vegetarian Platter, which allowed us to pick four vegetable dishes.  There were only seven options and they all seemed pretty similar in the descriptions.  This with ginger and garlic, that with a thick sauce, something else with a mild sauce. Not sure what any of this meant.

Time Out suggested both the Missir Wett (split lentils in stew) and the Gomen (collard greens with garlic & ginger).  We had two more to choose and it really was sort of an eeny meeny miny mo.  We ended up with the Buticha (ground chick peas with onion and peppers) and Ater Kik Alicha (split peas in a mild sauce).  We didn’t want to be complete herbivores, so we also ordered the Doro Wett (a speciality chicken stew).


The flavors weren’t too varied but each dish had something new. The collard greens were bright and lemony, the lentils were rich and hearty, the chickpea salad (served cold) was light and crunchy, and the split peas were mildly spicy and had a strong stewed tomato flavor. The chicken (which was not on the Time Out list) had the boldest flavors with quite a bit of heat, tender chicken that fell off the bone, and a hard boiled egg in the middle that helped soak up any sauce that the injera missed.

The dishes were more bland than I remembered from my previous Ethiopian experiences.  And once again, it’s all repetitive and not completely visually appetizing.  I was just pleased I was able to taste the difference in the dishes this time around (thanks to the spice restraint).  And even though I still have a lack of excitement for the cuisine, every once in a while, it’s worth the experience of having a unique food adventure.  And a place like the friendly Bati would be the logical choice.

Would Bati’s Vegetarian Platter make my Top 100 of the year?  It’s my own issues with Ethiopian food that prevent it from being spectacular.  The dishes were well-prepared and fresh, but not fully to my tastes.  They still get a 6 out of 10.

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About the Author

Brian Hoffman is a classically trained actor who is now a full-time tour guide, blogger, and food obsessive. He leads food and drink tours around New York City, which not only introduce tour-goers to delicious food, but gives them a historical context. He also writes food articles for Gothamist and Midtown Lunch in addition to overseeing this blog and a few food video series, including Eat This, Locals Know, and Around the World in One City.

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