A good Ethiopian restaurant isn't just the perfect place to practice close-up magic; it's also a great spot to meet friends and share Burton Gilliam gossip. Whisper savory secrets with today's Groupon: for $15, you get $35 worth of Ethiopian eats and drinks at Mesob Restaurant, located on Bloomfield Avenue in Montclair.
Ethiopian cuisine is traditionally eaten utensil-free, perched atop homemade injera, a large sourdough flatbread that acts as a tender, edible glove for your right hand to pick up and feed savory heaps of eats to your anticipatory taste buds. This spongy, pancake-like bread is delicious on its own and provides the ideal sidekick to complement the famous spicy main kick of the Ethiopian dishes on Mesob's menu. Popular entrees include doro key wat ($18.95) and doro aletcha wat ($17.95), spicy and mild versions of tender stewed chicken legs accompanied by a hard-boiled egg. The vegetarian sampler ($16.95 for one, $33 for two) is six leafy dishes, including gomen (collard greens), atkilt wat (fresh string beans and carrots), shiro (pureed split peas and chickpeas), and tikil gomen (cabbage and potatoes). Mesob is BYOB, and this Groupon is also good for Sunday brunch.
Mesob's dishes are able to channel the tantalizing tastes and savory style of authentic Ethiopian edibles from across the ocean because the owners are Ethiopian. Two immigrant sisters, Akberet and Berekti Mengistu, started the eatery after family, friends, and picnic-burgling squirrels who relished their careful cooking urged them to open a restaurant. Naming the place after a traditional Ethiopian wicker table (of which there are several in the dining room), the sisters worked to establish a warm, intimate atmosphere adorned with artwork and decorative garments that resonate with the communal warmth of Ethiopian culture. "When you enter, you’re enveloped by the homey yet exotic aromas of roasting coffee and spices…There is one thing you will certainly not want, and that is to leave," says David Corcoran of the New York Times.
Mesob is open from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday.
- Break off a piece of bread. Think of it as an edible scoop for wat or tibs. Or gomen, collard greens simmered in an herbed sauce. Or butcha, puréed chickpeas with a texture like highly spiced polenta. Taste. Repeat. Berekti Mengistu or one of her staff will stop by from time to time to answer questions, to keep you well supplied with injera, or just to make sure you’re enjoying yourself. – David Corcoran, New York Times
- Entrée portions are large, and side dishes are an essential part of the fun, so don’t over-order. That said, it’s hard to pass up preludes like kategna injera, toasted strips of injera basted with berbere spice mix and clarified butter. Ayib bemitmita, a cool, creamy farmer’s cheese dusted with mitmita (a hotter variation of berbere), is refreshing despite the higher heat. The standout preamble is ingudai tibs, marinated Portobello sautéed with caramelized red onion, garlic, and tomato. – Genevieve Contey, New Jersey Monthly
- Great food and a lot of fun. Our waitress was wonderful she spent a lot of time with us helping us figure out what we should order, as some in our party had not eaten Ethiopian before. The owner came over to our table after dinner to talk with us as well, which was also really great. – OpenTable.com user who dined on 06/06/2010
- The food here is fantastic. Great ingredients, plenty of fresh, fluffy injera, and wonderful spices in the stews. – Jay S., Yelp