While it’s true that Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant serves many of the Ethiopian staples common everywhere else, it’s the delicate, subtly spiced details that set it apart.

By Garrett Snyder (LA Weekly) |

For the past week or so, I’ve had the same dish stuck in my head, spinning over and over like a record on repeat. In Ethiopia, it’s called bozena shiro — a lush, silky stew made from ground chickpea flour, clarified butter, a laundry list of fragrant spices and tiny pieces of beef simmered until they’re all but indistinguishable. It was brought to my attention by Hana Belachew, a waitress at Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant, the newest addition to the restaurant-dense strip of Fairfax known as Little Ethiopia. It turns out she would know exactly what to recommend: Her mother is the chef, and with the help of Hana’s five sisters (and one brother) who run the front of house, the family is serving some of the most addictively delicious Ethiopian cooking in Los Angeles.

Ethiopian coffee, roasted in-house at Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant (PHOTO: Anne Fishebein/LA Weekly)

Ethiopian coffee, roasted in-house at Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant (PHOTO: Anne Fishebein/LA Weekly)

Back to that chickpea stew: It arrives bubbling hot in a small, black cauldron, along with big floppy sheets of injera — the thin, slightly spongy sourdough pancake that you use to sop up the ruddy, brick-red stew. The bozena shiro is deep and earthy, like the booming pluck of a bass string. The injera cuts through with a lemony tang, and you’re left wondering how the simple combination of beans and bread can pack such a revelatory amount of pleasure.

If you have spent any amount of time eating in L.A.’s small but robust Little Ethiopia neighborhood — which boasts crisp-skinned trout with lemon at Buna Market and bowls of slick fava bean foul (tricked out to resemble Mexican bean dip) at Meals by Genet — you might be familiar with the cooking of Tenagne Belachew, a matronly grandmother from a small town in northern Ethiopia. She’s cooked in the community for more than a decade, at Little Ethiopia stalwarts Rahel and Marathon.

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