A Date, A Gursha, The Messob

There are 84 languages spoken in Ethiopia. With each language come indigenous traditions. The influence of those traditions on one another might suggest why Ethiopian food is so exotic and transforms dining into either a family affair or dating adventure.

Messob, like many English words, can have more than one meaning. It can refer to the colorful centerpiece woven from grass stems upon which the main mealis placed when served. If it's a family gathering, each member sits around the Messob and all sample from the same dish. A Messob can also mean an honored feast prepared with exotic spices that titillate the pallet.

If one had to describe the restaurant Messob in one phrase it would be warm and friendly. There is a sense of harmony and family closeness from the staff and management.

As I entered the restaurant, I was greeted by a very beautiful and charming young Ethiopian lady with a beaming smile and soft voice. Upon request, she called for the owner-manager, Berhanu Asfaw, who was busy with restaurant business in his office. He insisted that interrupting him was no trouble in his pleasant, soft-spoken way, and proceeded to tell me about the restaurant and the food.

"Wot is a broth or stew which is used to prepare different dishes. It's spicy but not hot. It's well blended; we use many different kinds of herbs." said Asfaw. He and his co-owner brother, Getahun Asfaw, import their spices directly from Ethiopia to ensure quality.

Doro Wot, Siga Wot, Yebeg Siga Alitcha, Yater Alitcha, Kitffo, Tibs, Yatakilt Alitcha, and Yemisir Wot all go perfectly with Ethiopian Harrar beer or wine if you prefer. Doro Wot, for example, is chicken stewed in a pepper sauce with a variety of spices and is served with Injera, a spongy Ethiopian bread which enhances the flavor of wot. Zelzel Tibs was the tastiest.

Ethiopian food is not eaten using knives or forks. A piece of Injera is torn off and used to wrap the food and the eating practice of Gursha is what makes Ethiopian restaurants so exotic and the perfect place to take a date.

Gursha means mouthful in Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia. It is the art of preparing a bite of your date's favorite food wrapped in Injera and placing it into the others mouth, much like a bride or groom does with wedding cake. It is a deeply affectionate act which dates back for hundreds of years, and is the highest honor at a Messob.

The food is well-priced because any combination plate will easily fill two
people. Sharing is an Ethiopian tradition even if separate meals are ordered.

Once your meal is finished, don't skip the coffee. The aroma of the freshly roasted beans over an open fire is captivating. They serve Kaffa, Harar, or Sidamo, some of the world's most delicious coffee which is prepared fresh in an authentic Jebena with espresso sized cups. The coffee is rich and deeply flavorful.

Messob Restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily and located at 1041 S. Fairfax in the heart of Little Ethiopia. They take all major credit cards and recommend reservations with parties of five or more by calling (323) 938-8827.

More information is available from their website at www.messob.com/