When that all-too-romantic holiday rolls around the corner in the middle of February, most couples feel the need and pressure to dine in one of the swankiest restaurants in town, order the most expensive, sensual-sounding dishes (i.e. caviar, steak, lobster champagne, oysters...)and, before you know it, you've blown hundreds of dollars on a night that will - gasp! - invariably and inevitably roll around again next year...and the next...and the next. Eschewing trendy LA standards and embracing our love for worldly fare, my boyfriend and I have been celebrating the unfailing day of love with a tasty visit to our favorite Ethiopian joint on South Fairfax Avenue, a friendly little enclosure called Messob. Not for diners with shy taste buds and utensil-less inhibitions, Ethiopian food is actually a very romantic cuisine in both its savory flavors and its hands-on serving style. The technique that embodies Ethiopian dining culture, gursha, is essentially hand-feeding your partner-in-crime by placing bits of food into his or her mouth; the word itself means "mouthful," and is known as a gesture of affection, exchanged between both romantic loves and family members.
Now, this may sound nice and easy, but for the Ethiopian food amateur - and the very, very hungry and impatient eaters - it's anything but a leisurely meal. The enormous combination platter brought out to our "table" (a very authentic tray nestled into a colorfully woven, tall basket) looked and smelled absolutely amazing. Although we had ordered the very same thing last year, our eyes and noses were tantalized by the incredible mixture of sweet, savory and smoke spices and smells that practically jumped off of the platter and into our anxious mouths. Truth be told, neither one of us knows what is actually on this plate, the "Super Messob Exclusive." What we do know, however, is that everything on that tray tastes of smoky chile, savory garlic, sweet cardamom, and a zing of ginger. Wrap up a morsel (of whatever it is you pick up)in a piece of spongy, slightly sour yet delightfully aromatic injera bread and pop it into your (or sadly, not yours, and instead your dining companion's) mouth and experience a sensational and perfectly overpowering melange of the balanced earthy and spicy flavors of Ethiopia.
But don't be discouraged because Valentine's Day doesn't roll around for another 360 days or so; a night of Ethiopian dining can be enjoyed at any time of year and for any occasion thanks to the refreshing singularity of the cuisine and consistent delicious taste of its dishes. Perfect for a group of several friends or a romantic night with your loved one, Messob is a stop in Little Ethiopia that cannot be missed, no matter what holiday is just around the corner.
Messob Ethiopian Restaurant
1041 S Fairfax Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90019