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The vegetable combo platter includes several items that can be eaten with spongy injera bread. Photo by Mike Morgan
You sense elegance immediately when you walk into chef and owner Abe Bayu’s 48-seat Ethiopian restaurant, Meleket, which opened in July 2017 on Seminary Road just off Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring. An ornate, bronze-colored pressed tin ceiling, an under-lit fieldstone bar and large framed panels of paisley tapestry catch the eye. (A meleket is a musical instrument made of a ram’s horn, like a shofar.)
Bayu, who lives in Silver Spring, explains that his cooking is actually more Eritrean, referring to the country that borders Ethiopia to the north and achieved independence from the nation in 1991. “My dad is Ethiopian; my mother is Eritrean,” Bayu says. “The flavors are different. Ethiopian is spicier. Eritrean cooking uses tomatoes because of the Italian influence there, so there is a sweetness to the sauce and wots [stews] rather than a lot of heat. [Eritrea was an Italian colony from the late 19th century until the 1940s.] We also don’t use as much butter as Ethiopian food; we use olive oil or vegetable oil instead. I also add a lot of ginger and garlic to our dishes to bump up flavor.”
Begin a meal at Meleket with flaky triangular pastry pies (sambussa) filled with ground chicken and served with a zesty red pepper mayo called boum boum sauce or with Bayu bites, which are fingers of buttered, toasted Italian bread topped with a spread of finely chopped cooked kale and ricottalike cheese.
Then order a vegetable combo platter, the components of which are eaten with large rounds of injera, a thin, tangy, spongy bread made with teff flour. (Teff, a fine, dark grain, is a staple of the Ethiopian and Eritrean diets.) The offerings include three wots made respectively with red lentils, yellow split peas and green split peas; buttery, basil-enhanced collard greens; and sautéed cabbage, onions and carrots. Don’t miss the kitfo (Ethiopian steak tartare made with clarified butter and red chili spice mix) and Zizi’s special tibs (braised lamb sautéed with tomatoes, onions, garlic and jalapeño and served dramatically on a sizzling hot platter).
1907 Seminary Road, Silver Spring | 301-755-5768 | meleketrestaurant.com