Enjera is a newcomer to the 23rd Street strip in Crystal City that’s been a fixture of Arlington nightlife for more than a decade. The Abyssinian restaurant, which opened in January 2013, takes its name from the Ethiopian/Eritrean spongy flatbread staple properly spelled injera. For the uninitiated, injera is used as a dining utensil. But Enjera provides knives and forks for those who don’t like eating with their hands.
Enjera attempts to create an atmostphere that’s simultaneously classy and casual and nearly succeeds in doing that. There are two levels of outdoor seating – the ground level patio is uncovered and the second level patio, an extension of the indoor dining room, is covered.
The indoor dining room is dimly lit with hardwood floors and beautiful furniture, some of which needs refurbishing. And there is also quasi-cheesy jazz music playing and a bar area with a television to watch to sports.
Finding a parking spot is a challenge because, well, it’s Crystal City, but going to Enjera on a weeknight or some other non-peak time will help ensure you find somewhere to put your car while you dine.
But once you are in the restaurant the service is good and the food is even better. The hostess is friendly and the servers are warm, helpful and sensitive to special dietary needs.
Enjera’s appetizer menu has ten items and options for everyone. The kantisha is a braised mix of mushrooms with house seasoned mild sauce and three injera rolls. The dish is plated in a cute, whimsical manner – the mushroom mix comes in a cylindrical mound, ready to be noshed using the three injera rolls that are placed at its base. And its taste engages nearly the entire flavor pallet. It’s not overly spicy, but it is sweet, savory, salty and a slightly mild.
The sambusas are Enjera’s version of the samosa and while they’re good, they’re not as communal as the kantisha. The dipping sauce that comes along with the sambusa has an intense taste that’s definitely not for everyone. The appetizer also includes two salads and two seafood options.
As previously stated, the servers at Enjera speak vegan and the menu reads it. There are four entrées that can be made vegan, three of which don’t have to be altered to be made for cruelty-free eaters.
The vegan chicken spris – vegan chicken strips with house seasonings, awaze sauce, onions, rosemary, tomato and jalapeno – comes with a very small side salad and is savory, sweet and hearty. The shiro, a traditional Abyssinian dish, is another vegan-as-is dish. The dish consists of roasted and seasoned mini chick peas, slow-cooked with house seasonings, hints of spice and is served in a traditional clay pot.
There is a vegan beef dish as well and a vegan sampler platter featuring all three aforementioned entrées can be ordered for indecisive diners or parties of more than one. Don’t worry, meat eaters, there’s plenty on the entrée menu for you, too, including several traditional Abyssinian dishes and even a meat lover’s sampler platter.
With a laid back but classy atmosphere, great food and personable, attentive service, Enjera is a restaurant with the potential to become a Crystal City favorite.
Enjera | 549 23rd St. | Arlington | 703-271-6040 | enjerarestaurant.com