On Thursdays and Sundays, fans of Ethiopian cuisine can add a small, but substantial buffet to their dining options. The rich stews known as wots and other entrees at Dilla's nine-dish buffet are hearty and often benefit from the extra time simmering on the buffet line.
But Minnesota has some top-notch Ethiopian food, and though Dilla is certainly a step up from the dicey Chinese buffet that it replaced, can it live up to our standards?
Voice Places: Blue Nile
100 Favorite Dishes: No. 31 Fasika's Zilzil Tibs
Dilla's website boldly claims it is the best Ethiopian restaurant in Minnesota. Indeed, since its arrival on the scene in June 2012, it has won many fans, especially from the West Bank student community, who enjoy steep discounts at selected hours.
Our first visit to the restaurant was for the buffet and the quality of the food itself did not disappoint, though it was difficult initially to find out the names of the dishes and whether or not they contained meat. It seems like a no-brainer to throw a couple of signs up with the names of each dish and its key ingredients.
Every visit to the buffet lines starts with a hearty serving of injera, a soft, porous sourdough bread that spreads out across the plate to hold separate piles of each variety of stew. The first selection offered three simple vegetable dishes that were all prepared with less oil than other Ethiopian restaurants we've visited. The beets were a stand-out dish: french fry slices of beet provided an earthy flavor that blended perfectly with the sourdough taste of the injera.
Vegetarians will appreciate that only two of the nine dishes contained meat, while carnivores will be happy to note that these delicious meat stews featured high quality cuts of meat and vegetables. The siga-wot was the winner, with a lean slow cooked beef that maintained its own flavor even in the fragrant berber stew surrounding the slices.
The miser-wot and shiro were respectively lentil and garbanzo-based dishes that contained so much hot sauce flavoring that they were in color more comparable to a ground beef dish. These particular stews are delicious for anyone, but they're a must for vegetarians; the hot spices and hearty beans carry the belly-filling qualities of meat while staying vegetarian-friendly.
If you have to focus in on one single dish while visiting we recommend the ater-wot, yellow split peas cooked with garlic, ginger, and carrots in a mild curry sauce. On the day we visited the mild curry sauce was somewhat reminiscent of a clear Chinese gravy and carried a kick that has never made carrots taste so fresh while still maintaining the signature curry flavor.
In addition to injera Dilla also offers a rice dish, but it tastes mostly like an afterthought. To truly enjoy an authentic hands-on Ethiopian dining experience, the sourdough flat bread is non-negotiable.
The Dilla buffet is served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Thursday and Sunday.
City Pages on Facebook | Hot Dish on Facebook | Twitter | e-mail us