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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Casual restaurant

Sun–Thu 11:00am–1:00am
Fri–Sat 11:00am–1:00am

Features Live music, veg-friendly
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted


1909 9th St. NW
Washington, DC
(202) 328-2223
This is love that we’re feeling in Little Ethiopia

We very nearly wrote this review as lyrics to the tune of Bob Marley’s “Is This Love?” but it made us sound really, really lame. Instead, we’ll just listen to Legend as we tell you about Shashemene. It’s a relative newcomer to 9th Street’s burgeoning Little Ethiopia, whose identical 19th-century row houses—many of them bearing Ethiopian restaurants—can at first seem difficult to distinguish from each other. The joke in Manhattan’s (vaguely analogous) Indian Row is that all the restaurants tunnel into the same kitchen and vary only by their degrees of garish tinsel and Christmas lighting in the dining rooms. There’s no danger of that at Shashemene; there’s a lot of great Ethiopian food on this block, but some of the achievements in this kitchen aren’t matched nearby.

The interior is totally undecorated except for a simple black and white tapestry of Bob Marley, in which he smiles over diners like their patron saint (Shashemene is the name of an Ethiopian town given as a gift to Rastafarian Jamaicans in the ‘60s). Otherwise, it’s just white walls and simple, new wood furnishings.

When it comes to the food, though, well...this is love. There’s a sensational luxuriance to the kitfo, the Ethiopian version of steak tartare. Ask for it raw and you’ll get a grin; more importantly, it will come at a proper room temperature—not too cold, as is often the problem with minced raw beef—with treble notes of butter and lemon that are subtle but bright. We also love Shashemene’s treatments of the classic vegetable dishes, among which a buttery-beyond-belief stew of brown lentils stands out; it’s one of the best Ethiopian veggie dishes we’ve ever had.

Alicha, a cooked beef stew, was the central weakness of our last Shashemene meal. Its cubes were neither gently simmered nor carefully seared—just roughly overcooked, ruining an otherwise pleasant, spicy onion stew. Doro wat sees much more tenderness in its chicken, though, whose meat seems gently placed on—rather than attached to—the bone.

You owe it to yourself to explore 9th Street’s entire range of options, but Shashemene is a good place to start, with its great food, irie friendliness, and live music Thursday through Saturday nights. It’s jammin’. (Okay, seriously, knock it off).

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