The old Zenebech would have made my “always yes” list but it closed about a year ago (RIP) and I thought all was lost. It was only last night, during an outing in AdMo, that I coincidentally noticed the NEW Zenebech in its fancy new location on 18th Street, so we headed there tonight. I was really worried about not getting a table because seating was tight in their old U Street location, so we arrived at around 6 to a nearly empty restaurant.
The inside of the restaurant was definitely a fancy step-up from their U Street hole in the wall. Nice bar with seating, subway tile, exposed brick, and say goodbye to the plastic chairs! This place got classy! The bar also had a decent selection of domestic craft beers on top of their usual Ethiopian bottles. We ordered basically immediately because, like I said, old Zenebech was our jam: one each of the beef and chicken sambusas, the vegetarian platter, and awazay tibs (which we reluctantly ordered with lamb, though we were fearful that it would be chewy).
In the old Zenebech, I would have been constantly tortured as platter after platter arrived for everyone except me. But here, the food arrived incredibly fast. The chicken sambusa was new, I believe, or at least new to me. My husband actually preferred it to the beef. The beef pastry was crispy and well-spiced. There was a new lentil addition to the vegetarian platter, which was milder in flavor than the other, and the lamb tibs was incredibly tender, though not as spicy as I would have liked, and too saucy to be either poured onto the injera or to be dipped into with the extra injera. We mostly ended up eating it with a spoon. My only other complaint is that I could barely walk out of the restaurant because I ate so much.
All in all, new Zenebech totally holds up, and their extremely reasonable prices will continue to make this a perennial favorite. The new AdMo location is no longer walkable for me the way U Street was, but considering how much I ate, perhaps that’s for the best.
The bottom line: Still delicious, will become a cult classic.
Price: Roughly $25 per person