I'd been to Ethiopian restaurants before, so what really intrigued me about Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant was the Buna Bejebena, or Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony. Cost is $25, and makes about 7-8 small cups of coffee.
You can read from the wiki about the coffee ceremony, and in the restaurant there is a picture of the ceremony. The ceremony as done in Lalibela is, however, rather boring.
They do bring a smoking pan of beans around the table, but really can't linger because of the smoke it generates. They aren't allowed to bring it out too long and in any case it might set off smoke detectors or just plain choke you in the confined space.
Then the coffee is brewed in the traditional apparatus and poured into little cups. Concentrated black coffee taken straight (but if you need sugar they will provide).
And that's it. The end.
You can see the pictures I took and decide if the novelty is enough for you to spend about $3 per coffee shooter.
We were a party of ten and got to share ten different dishes. Price per person came out under $20, similar to a moderately priced Indian restaurant where you didn't load up on extra naan, which can inflate the cost. Here, you can ask for extra injera bread, but it costs $1 per order.
The injera here is made with teff AND barley, and is NOT gluten free, unlike injera made only with teff.
TIP: Don't get extra injera to scoop up the stews and meats. Instead, save the spoons from each dish. Too much injera can make you too full to finish your dish. Plus, if you have a sharing platter like we did, there's still the injera at the bottom of the platter, which is soaked in the juices and either oily or tasty or both. We didn't get any extra injera and still didn't finish everything -- and each person only ordered one dish.
TIP: "Wot" means sauce, so if you order anything with this expect it to look more like a thick stew or dip, possibly with no chunks of meat or veggie.
TIP: Website photos look pretty much nothing like what you get. Almost all our dishes came in that oval shaped dish common in Indian restaurants for a single order of curry.
We tried lots of things and I didn't want to hold up the entire group with my pics or carefully itemizing everything before starting, so here is just a partial account of our meal plus some notes.
I felt that no individual dish was really so stand-out, but the meal was good overall for being able to try many things and the sheer variety in the meal -- made possible by going with many people, or ordering one of their platters.
Qey Doro Wot ($14) A hearty spicy stew made from fresh chicken and sautéed red onions Seasoned with chilli pepper (berbere) and flavoured with garlic, ginger and various herbs. Doro Wot always has boiled eggs in it. This is our signature Ethiopian Dish.
- The stew came with exactly one egg and one drumstick. Not exactly shareable except the stew part.
- Sauce was otherwise pretty tasty, and not seriously spicy-hot.
Misir Wot ($8) A stew made of red lentils (split), seasoned with hot chilli pepper (berbere) spices like cardamom, cinnamon, garlic, ginger and onion seeds
If you tell them your group is going to share their orders, they can provide 1-2 large trays each with a single large injera. If you have two trays, put half of each dish on each tray to make your own sharing platter.
Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant has a smallish look but a spacious-feeling interior thanks to generous table spacing. For a Friday evening it was pretty quiet at 6pm.
TIP: It's next to Hon's Wonton House, so you might be able to mooch their free WiFi while inside Lalibela.
TIP: The friendly owner is happy to talk about Ethiopian culture, including the name of the restaurant, the coffee ceremony, and eating with your hands and no cutlery