Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Desta




3086 Briarcliff Rd., Atlanta, GA www.destaethiopiankitchen.com

Last night Heidi, Ilya and I had dinner at Desta, an Ethiopian restaurant at the intersection of Clairmont and Briarcliff roads. This area boasts several Ethiopian restaurants - in fact, previously reviewed Bahel is right across the street. I hadn't been to Bahel in a while, and had been missing Ethiopian cuisine.

The two restaurants have similar menus, but not everything is the same. Both have kitfo, the raw beef dish I so enjoyed at Bahel. Both have collard greens and other vegetables, and the ubiquitous spongy bread you'll use as a utensil, folding it up and grabbing the rest of your food. However, there are a few differences.

One difference seems to be in the intensity of the spiciness. At Bahel, the server will give you a separate, small bowl of the famously hot mitmita on the side, whereas it was liberally mixed into each of our dishes at Desta. If you're sensitive to the heat, you'll want to either ask for your meal to be prepared minus the spice, or eat at Bahel instead.

For example, I had the fish tibs ($11). This is shredded (the menu says cubed) tilapia, marinated in "house spices" (read hot), olive oil, peppers, tomato and onion. This is a very rich but delicious dish. Who can resist fish in olive oil? The red onion and green peppers provide excellent flavor notes, and the portion is probably just right . . . assuming you can stand the hot, hot spices, which I couldn't. I wanted to eat more, but I could only get about halfway through before giving up and allowing my mouth to burn on its own. The tilapia is also accompanied by bread and a nice, semi-cooling diced tomato and lettuce (I think iceberg) salad.

Desta also doesn't offer chicken kitfo, as Bahel does. I think kitfo is technically supposed to be raw. Let me assure you that Bahel doesn't serve raw chicken. It's cooked, and it's devine. Desta only had one or two chicken options on the menu.

Another difference is the desserts. Desta offers at least five desserts, with only one of them making sense given the theme - an Ethiopian hot cake for $5.99. The other options are tiramisu (Italian), Napoleon (French), chocolate cake and baklava (Greek). Ilya loves the tiramisu here.

Desta has plenty of meat options, including ground beef, ribeye, liver and tripe. You won't lack for meat or bread here.

I won't say that I like it better than Bahel, but I didn't like it less either. I think the two are probably just about equal, as are their prices and indoor atmospheres. The deciding factor for where you might want to dine could be the covered outdoor seating at Desta.

I'd love to hear from followers who've tried both restaurants and have a clear preference.

Verdict: Great stuff.

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