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Restaurant reviews in Tyson's and surrounding area... mostly

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant, Fairfax, VA *** CLOSED ***

3900 Pickett Rd
Fairfax, VA 22031
(703) 425-1130

If we hadn't bought a Specialicous coupon, we would have never gone here, but we are glad we did.  In a nutshell, the food was great, but the dining experience as a whole was not something we would return for.  The first thing that hit us when we entered Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant was the poor ventilation.  After a few minutes we got used to it, but sure enough when we walked out, the smell of an exhaust-lacking kitchen followed us all the way home.  We would say that this was the worst part of the dining experience.

Though the waitress served the entire dining room alone, she did a relatively good job and was very pleasant.  However, she was clearly overwhelmed with having to serve about 6 or 7 tables by herself. 

The other thing that we noticed right away was that most of the diners in the restaurant were American.  It’s great that Sheba caters to the American clientele, but all the excellent Ethiopian restaurants we’ve ever been to in this area all have a relatively large contingent of Ethiopians (typically all men) eating there, but at Sheba we noticed one table of Ethiopians.  Accordingly, when we sat down we were given a cutlery set – a fork and knife wrapped in a napkin!  That was extremely unusual, because Ethiopian food is typically eaten with hands (and injera--the spongy buckwheat-like pancake used to scoop up the food).  We looked around and the Americans eating at a table next to us were using forks.  This confirmed that this restaurant caters to a non-Ethiopian crowd.

We ordered our usual Ethiopian restaurant entrees – a vegetarian sampler and an order of beef Tibs with awaze sauce on the side. Bill had a Sambusa appetizer, which was a large deep-fried pastry filled with lentils.  Usually $3.95 gets you two small Sambusas, based on our experience at other Ethiopian restaurants, while here it was a single large pastry, which was OK.  The food was tasty, but lacking in the flavorful spice that is characteristic to Ethiopian food.  We usually expect a full flavored Ethiopian meal when we go to an Ethiopian restaurant, but this was not full flavored.  They may have toned it down for “gringos,” or maybe, as we wrote earlier, they do not cater to a crowd that appreciates the full experience.

If we are ever in the Fairfax area again and feel like having Ethiopian food from Sheba, we will most definitely go there, but rather than dining in the restaurant, we would take it to go.

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