Ethiopian food is some of the most unique food an American can experience, because it is so very different from our own cooking and eating style. We discovered Little Ethiopia on Fairfax over ten years ago. A friend brought us to Nyala and we enjoyed Ethiopian food for the first time. Now it is a family favorite and we come here every year as a Father's Day tradition.
The atmosphere of Nyala is very casual and low key. You can enjoy a very leisurely meal here without being rushed or bothered. You may need to request a water refill now and then, because otherwise your server will leave you to enjoy your food and conversation. The dining room is decorated with Ethiopian themed paintings and there is corner furnished with Ethiopian crafts and furnishings.
Ethiopian cuisine is very spiced, but not spicy. In other words, rather than being hot spicy, it is flavorful spicy. Nyala offers a great variety of dishes including beef, chicken, lamb, seafood, and vegetarian. Our favorite dishes are the Doro Tibs (boneless pieces of chicken breast sauteed with onion, garlic, tomato, seasoned red pepper sauce and seasoned butter) and Yebeg Wot (lamb marinated in red wine and sauteed in seasoned butter, fresh onion, garlic, ginger, and seasoned red pepper sauce). The dishes are served family style in a large serving dish lined with Injera (Ethiopian sourdough thin bread, think spongy crepe). Each person tears off a strip of Injera and uses it to grab a piece of food from the serving platter. There are no plates and no forks. It is definitely a different eating experience, but you will soon get used to it. The Injera is a sanitary way to grab food in a shared setting and does a great job soaking up the sauces and enhancing the flavor of the dish.
Nyala is a great choice for a celebratory meal where you want to enjoy conversation and friendship over the course of a long meal. They offer unique teas and coffees as well as other after dinner treats. It is best to go with a group of 4 or 6, in order to be able to sample many of the diverse dishes. Be sure to order a variety of beef, chicken, and lamb. And the vegetarian lentil dishes are worth a try as well.
There are a couple of parking spaces on Fairfax in front of the restaurant with more parking in the alley behind. We usually park in the alley and enter using the rear entrance. Take a chance on something a little exotic and you will not be disappointed. You will love Nyala and Ethiopian cuisine!