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Vegetarians in Paradise

 Vegetarian Restaurant Review

R: Unable to resist an invitation to a dinner at Rosalind's Ethiopian Restaurant, we headed back to Little Ethiopia, our favorite restaurant area on Fairfax between Olympic and Pico, to meet our friend Andy. It happened to be our anniversary, and we were ready to celebrate.

Z: The entrance to Rosalind's provided the first glimpse of atmosphere. A small outdoor patio with a roof covered with dried brown thatch flanked the entrance and beckoned us in. We were no longer in Los Angeles. It was easy to imagine we were in Africa with colorful African ambience surrounding us.

R: The lights were dim, creating a comfortable intimacy. The left side of the long room featured booths that had overhanging bamboo umbrellas supported by bamboo poles covered in African designs painted in black, brown, and white. These gave the impression of being in little huts with thatched grass overhangs. The center of the room had tables flanked by a long bar on the right side.

Rosalind's Z: The servers were dressed in traditional Ethiopian garb. Some wore colorful, striped head scarves wrapped Ethiopian style. The brightly colored dresses -- some long, some short, consisted of wide stripes of bright blue, green, yellow, red, and brown -- added to the festive atmosphere.

R: Andy, who had eaten here many times, recommended we embark on our African dinner safari by ordering a variety of appetizers. We gladly welcomed Anna, our server, as she placed a platter of Sambussas in front of us.

Z: Each Sambussa was a three-inch triangle of dough generously stuffed with well-seasoned lentils lightly spiced with bits of green chile. There's no denying these finger foods were a bit greasy, but their flavor was so exceptional we devoured them enthusiastically.

R: Our next two appetizers arrived at the same time. The first was Kelewe, plantain fingers that were seasoned Ghanian style and fried. The second was Akara, another Ghanian treat. These were golden brown, one-inch balls made from mashed yams seasoned with nutmeg, rolled in breadcrumbs, and deep-fried. I had to tell Andy that he had made some great choices.

Z: While each appetizer we tasted was outstanding, our favorite was the yam balls. They were accompanied with a dipping sauce, or, rather, a relish composed of onions, green chiles, and oil. The combination of sweet from the yams, and spice from the sauce created the perfect flavor balance. We used forks for these appetizers, but the remainder of the meal was served in typical Ethiopian style without silverware.

R: The Vegetarian Combination entrée arrived on a large porcelain platter with a plate of Salad on the side. The salad of iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers was dressed in a delicate coating of lemon juice and oil.

Z: The Vegetarian Combination presentation was typical of each of the Ethiopian restaurants where we had dined. The platter was completely lined with a large Injera, the traditional spongelike-thin pancake usually made of teff, a tiny grain indigenous to Ethiopia. Mounded on the Injera were five individual Wots, or stews. One of the stews, the tasty, Yellow Split Pea Alicha, was steamed with onions and seasoned with garlic and ginger. The dish stood out with a hint of sweetness.

R: I really went for the Split Lentils with the slightly spicy red pepper sauce and a mysterious blend of great seasonings. It was easy to tear off a chunk of the extra Injera that's served on the side and scoop up a portion of that tasty little mountain of lentils. Also on the platter was a mound of Steamed Collard Greens seasoned with garlic and green peppers. Apparently, Ethiopians are far better than Americans about eating their greens.

Z: I certainly agree. Not once at each of the Ethiopian restaurants we've enjoyed did they neglect to include collard greens on the platter. And they're seasoned so well they truly do compliment the combination of stews. My favorite stew was the Green Beans and Carrots. There was a delicate sweetness to the combo. The last Wot, or stew, was the medley of Steamed Cabbage, Potato, Carrots, and Onions, another dish that tasted like Mom must have been in the kitchen that night.

R: Though we've eaten at many Ethiopian restaurants, we know that for many people the experience may be new. Dining in traditional Ethiopian style requires one to have a very close encounter with the food and share the same plate with others. Rather than eating with a utensil such as a fork or spoon, we followed Ethiopian custom and simply tore off palm-sized chunks of Injera and used them to scoop up bite-size portions of stew.

Z: The Injera itself, with its slightly sourdough flavor, is tasty, quite thin, and very manageable. Each bite of food is eaten in this fashion.

VIP's R: I really appreciated the attention given to acoustics in the restaurant. The soft African music in the background and the din of conversation from the other diners didn't interfere with our ability to enjoy good conversation. So often one has to shout across the table to communicate, but certainly not here.

Z: What really turns me on is a genuine dining experience in a restaurant that has carpeting, real tablecloths, and tasty food. Rosalind's has it all, wonderful food, great atmosphere, and even a red oil candle on the table.

R: Certainly, they earn a thumbs up for all of the above plus reasonable prices. As we were attempting to comfort our overfull stomachs, we thought about how much we enjoyed the meal and how hard it was to leave any food on the platter. We did leave a little, honest. Thanks, Andy!

Rosalind's Ethiopian Restaurant
1044 S. Fairfax Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Phone: 323-936-2486
Hours: 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. daily

Reviewed February 2004

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