Dave’s View: As I pulled into the parking lot of Major Restaurant I was asking Andrea if we were going to get stuck in the pot holes. There are many pot holes, but they are easily maneuverable. Remember, a bad exterior doesn’t mean a bad interior. In our past adventures, quite the opposite occurs, and in this case, it did. As you walk thru the doors, you are transformed into a different country. You actually will sit in this restaurant and say, “Am I in America?” I can’t believe this restaurant exists, right here in Indianapolis. It is the diamond in the rough. The hidden gem that no one can find!
The inside of the restaurant is divided into two areas. The left is for dining. It has the typical tables and chairs, but we prefer and suggest to you, to walk to the right. Off to the right are wicker woven patio chairs surrounding round small coffee-like tables. If you’ve never been to an Ethiopian restaurant, here are some tips you need to know:
1. You eat with your fingers. The first item the wait staff will bring out is hand sanitizer. Use it to clean your hands. If you’re by yourself then I don’t care. If you are with family or friends, use it. Don’t ask for utensils, you’re on a food adventure. I will make an exception for utensils if both of your hands are extremely gnarly.
2. The food is communal. Meaning the food comes out, in this case, on a pizza size platter and every one eats off this platter, hence the hand sanitizer.
3. Prior to the food platter, your waiter will bring out plates of Injera bread. It is soft, thin slices of spongy bread. This is your vehicle for picking up your food on the platter. You tear away some Injera bread and scoop up whatever is on the platter. If you have children and they are not “picky” eaters, they will have fun eating at this restaurant.
In our past adventure in Ethiopian restaurants, if you order two entrees, they put it on one platter. If you have four people in the group, they put it on two platters. So its usually two entrees to one platter. If you have a large group, they may put it on one platter, but it’s going to be a crowded platter, so we suggest you follow the restaurant recommendation.
I ordered the Ye Misir Watt. It is red lentils with a spicy kick. Surrounding the lentils on the platter, was pickled cabbage, spinach, another form of lentils, a thick sauce from the unknown, and a salad mix. The cabbage has a nice earthy taste to it. The spinach and the lentils were well prepared, but my favorites were the unknown sauce and the salad. The salad leaves were extremely fresh and the tomato on top was so sweet, it made my mouth pucker. The unknown sauce is something, I frankly, can’t describe. I don’t know what it was, but when you mix the unknown sauce with the sweetness and earthy overtones of the other food on the platter it is something to experience. Everyone should experience Ethiopian food, especially at this restaurant.
To top off this fantastic meal, the restaurant gave us some coffee. You may say to yourself, it’s just coffee. Yeah, well this coffee comes with an adventure all by itself. If you order the coffee, they roast the coffee first. How do you know this? Because they show you. I mean they literally show you. All three of us (Andrea was in the bathroom), were quietly sitting around the table and all of sudden, a woman pops out of the kitchen with a small sauce pan in her hand. She is dancing around with roasted coffee beans and shows each one of us the beans roasting in the pan. She then flips the pan over onto a small trivet like cloth and places it down in between our platters. I’ve never seen such excitement over coffee, let alone dancing about coffee. Yes, she was actually DANCING with a pan of roasted coffee beans. I loved it! They then pick up the beans and take them back to the kitchen for pressing. When the coffee came out, I can see why she was dancing. The coffee, which is organic, comes out on tray with a bowl of popcorn and incense. The incense plumes about in the air and the coffee is poured out of a vessel that resembles pottery that was dug up centuries ago. The coffee cups are espresso size, not Starbuck size. Don’t expect the typical “cigarette” taste of espresso coffee. The coffee is strong, but well-balanced. This is the coffee everybody should be drinking in the morning. It is a smooth, dark coffee with no bitter overtones.
Above all, go to this restaurant. Are you afraid? Don’t be. Loving arms will be extended. Those loving arms might be dancing, but who cares.
Food: 9.5 Service 9.5 Ambiance: 9 Total: 28 out of 30
$30-$40 with adult beverages.
Andrea’s View: The last time Dave and I visited an Ethiopian restaurant, it was an okay experience. We did not know anything going into that food adventure about the food, culture, and customs of Ethiopia. We walked away from that experience with the feeling of “Okay, we did that, now we can cross that off our list.” That was a year ago, and we decided to give east African cuisine another chance. I am so happy that we did. Major Restaurant sits in a run-down strip mall just off of West Washington just inside of 465. Many people will probably refer to this neighborhood as “bad”, but I would not consider it “bad” in the sense of crime, it’s just that it’s, well, old and run-down. Even as we were parking, Dave said, “I don’t know about this one.” We were meeting our friends Mr. J and Mrs. J and their toddler W. Their car was already in the parking lot when we arrived, so that meant we had to go inside. Once inside, you are instantly welcomed into the home of your Ethiopian neighbor. One side of the dining room is set up much like a regular restaurant dining room with traditional tables and chairs. The other side however, and the side our friends were seated at, is set up with round end tables that look like woven baskets turned upside down, wrought iron chairs, and wooden plant stands. W was sitting on the floor between the furniture playing with his toys. We four adults ordered drinks and started to peruse the extensive and unfamiliar menu. The server, (and I am quite certain he is also the owner) gave us some suggestions and patiently waited for the four of us to make up our minds about what to order. Dave and I finally settled on Ye Misir Watt, a spicy red lentil dish, and Ye Beg Alicha Tibs, a lamb entrée simmered in onion, tomato, garlic, and green peppers. Before our food came out, the server brought out our bottle of hand sanitizer, (Ethiopian food is eaten with your hands) and our injera bread. Injera bread is the utensil you use to pick up your food. Our food came out on enormous platters with both entrées in the middle surrounded by several vegetable dishes. The vegetables included more lentils, cabbage, spinach, corn puree, a salad with tomatoes and onions, and something that resembled refried beans. Our server carefully explained each of the dishes and the sides, except I don’t recall what he called the refried bean looking dish. I suppose that does not matter, it was delicious. All of the food was delicious. I even liked the injera bread, which I disliked at the previous restaurant. My previous experience with injera bread was that is was too chewy and had a strong sour dough taste that interrupted and interfered with the food I was picking it up with. This injera was light and almost flavorless, you could actually taste the delicate and often spicy flavors of the Ethiopian food. After dinner our server came over and asked us if we wanted to experience a traditional coffee ceremony. We agreed, and a few minutes later, (I was in the lady’s room at the time) steaming hot coffee beans appeared on our “table”. A few minutes later the beans were taken away and replaced with incense, a clay pot, tiny little coffee cups, and some popcorn. Our server explained to us the growing and harvesting of the beans, (they are organically grown with no pesticides or fertilizer), the roasting of the beans, and the pouring of the coffee. The popcorn is a little snack that you offer to your friends when you have them over for coffee. The coffee was strong, but it was smooth and not the least bit bitter. The incense was fragrant but not over powering, it was a pleasant accent to the end of a fantastic meal.
When Dave and I started this blog, we chose our tag line to be “Finding ethnic food served with love.” We were not just welcomed into a charming restaurant with great food, we were embraced into the home of people who truly love their food and their culture. They are showing pride in and celebrating Ethiopia with everything they do. Every detail, every decoration, and every piece of furniture reverberates with love. I mentioned that our friends had brought their toddler W. Over the course of the meal, W was rolling around on the carpet, playing with the little woven handy wipe holders, and just generally behaving like any other seventeen month old at a McDonald’s playland. Did the owner get upset. No, he brought out a plastic ball and tried to play soccer with him. Granted we were the only patrons in the restaurant, but he did not have to do that. As Dave and I were driving home, I was reminded of the lyrics to the Beatles song, “The End.” “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” Maybe I say this too often to be effective, but please, go to Major Restaurant and experience the food, the coffee, the love, and the culture.