Arts & Entertainment

Restaurant Spotlight: Meaza

111Adventurous diners in Bailey’s Crossroads can rejoice: Meaza restaurant is serving up Ethiopian favorites with great flavor and a fair amount of heat.

111Adventurous diners in Bailey’s Crossroads can rejoice: Meaza restaurant is serving up Ethiopian favorites with great flavor and a fair amount of heat.

Upon entering the stand-alone building off of Columbia Pike, customers are greeted by a dining area that is well, though oddly, appointed. Elegant dining tables set in plaid and burgundy are spread across the very modern space, with the artistic, freeform shapes of the neutral walls and ceilings providing the only decoration, save for a chronological series of portraits of Ethiopian rulers painted on furs hanging on the wall.

The appetizers menu is made mostly of various salads, but includes lamb short ribs for those who want to start their meal off with a bit of Meaza’s impressive meats. The stand-out on the menu is the classic sambusa. At $3 a piece, these crunchy pastry pockets hold a wonderful blend of lentils, onion and pepper, so deliciously seasoned and so savory that the absence of meat in the dish is no setback at all.

The lentils are a mainstay in the restaurant’s numerous vegetarian entrees, with peas, cabbage, tomatoes, and a healthy dose of spice added, depending on the dish.

While a few entrees feature chicken and fish as their focus, lamb and beef are paramount. The lamb tibs dish serves tiny pieces of house-marinated lamb along with onion, pepper, garlic and tomato. Though a bit overcooked, undoubtedly because of the small size of the lamb pieces, the dish’s flavorful sauce and the slightly spicy seasoning that is carried throughout the dish make up for the tough pieces of meat.

Those looking for a more tender dish of meat might opt to skip the cooking altogether. The restaurant serves raw ground beef in its kitfo and liyu kitfo dishes, both seasoned with the potent spice mitmita, the latter more spicy than the former. The kitfo, served warm though not cooked, and again flawlessly seasoned, is a delicious treat for those willing to set aside unwarranted fears about eating raw beef, but can be cooked, upon request, too.

Entrees are served family style in a large, shallow dish directly atop a large piece of injera, a tangy, crepe-like flatbread. Entrees are served alongside cheese and pickled vegetables, as well as powdered and pureed spices for those who wish to push the boundaries of heat with their meal. When it comes to eating these stew-like dishes, diners are encouraged to use additional pieces of injera to scoop up combinations of meat and their accompaniments. But with dishes this flavorful, customers will want to eat their utensils, as well as every last bit of injera coating the plate.

Those hoping to end their meal with a sweet dessert will find an assortment of European cakes and pastries on the dessert menu that don’t complement the meal, but might consider some of the special juices and sodas the restaurant offers to cool the flames lit by the very spicy dishes the restaurant serves.

With hours stretching late into the evening, helpful servers willing to explain the restaurant’s exotic dishes, and affordable, filling entrees at about $12 a piece, there is little reason not to try Meaza and sample a bit of faraway food right in Falls Church.

Meaza is located at 5700 Columbia Pike, Falls Church. For more information, call 703-820-2870 or visit Restaurant hours are Sunday – Saturday: 10 a.m. – 1 a.m.