The Distinguished Gourmand: Meals By Genet
From Left to Right: Maryn, Genet, Nate, Evan, Louise, Mark
Oh, if only this were the year 2007. Rob, Sari and Nicci could actually see Dinner Club in action. Believe me when I tell you that we’re running like a well-oiled machine in dire need of being well-oiled. In fact, we’re a barely-functional machine. That’s how smoothly this thing of ours is running right now.
Eh, that’s a bit of an overstatement. The planning of this month’s Dinner Club meeting was a shitshow. But it’s not all that bad. Our intended dinner date was originally set for the 8th of June, and we wound up changing it several times before everyone agreed to the 22nd. Then Erin and Dave (Maryn’s +1 this time around) couldn’t make it, so at the last minute we were once again left with the same five club members who dined at Animal last month. Poor Erin, she’s missed out on both of the dinners she helped plan. Louise had the quote of the night when she joked, “I think when it’s my turn to choose where we eat my plus-one invitation is going to be Erin.” That poor girl, she once again missed out on an amazing meal, and this time she missed a shockingly cool gesture made by owner/chef Genet Agonafer.
The good news is, once the members of Dinner Club are seated together around a table all the bullshit that comes with planning meetings fades and we have a great time. This is exactly what occurred last night at Meals By Genet (1053 S. Fairfax Ave. Los Angeles, CA). I think Louise was the only person at the table who hadn’t tried Ethiopian cuisine before, so she received a rundown from our server Sean, who was as friendly and attentive as one could ask. Maryn and Nate were already hip to Genet’s cooking style because they worked on a TV show with her. For Mark, Louise and I Sean shared some crucial information about the menu that helped us plan our meal. On a stretch of Fairfax that boasts plenty of Ethiopian restaurants (Messob next door was really good the two times I’ve been there), Genet calls hers “LA’s only authentic gourmet Ethiopian restaurant.”
Our order went thusly: two vegetarian platters — technically it was one giant plate with a diameter of maybe 18″-20″ covered with injera and lined with yellow and orange split peas, lentils, sauteed beans, collard greens, potatoes, two fantastic variations on Fifit and a number of other spicy side orders — an order of Doro Wot (Genet’s signature dish which is slow-cooked for over 48 hours), an order of Yebere Siga Tibs (beef), an order of Siga Wot (spicy rib-eye) and an order of Yebegsiga Alitcha (lamb stewed with garlic). The lamb meat is apparently pulverized and stewed with its bones in order to infuse the flavor of the marrow. This made for a somewhat adventurous eating experience. Although there weren’t many bones to be found in our order, there were some that needed to be excavated. We also ordered a bottle of pinot grigio.
After downing our first bottle of wine, Sean stopped by our table to ask if we’d like another bottle. Being functioning alcohols we of course ordered another bottle. This time he returned with a bottle we didn’t order. He said Genet wanted us to drink an “upgraded” wine, which we all thought was a really nice gesture. We continued to eat and revel. Sean seemed transfixed on our table and appeared to spend more time hovering around us than anyone else in the restaurant. Another bottle of wine was ordered. More meat was ordered (the Siga Wot was not part of our original order but Nate and I demanded another meat dish). Our bellies filled quickly to their maximum capacities.
We soon noticed that every other patron had cleared out of the small, dimly-lit room except for us. Rather than rush us out, Sean offered us dessert and coffee. I’m neither a dessert nor a coffee guy, but in the interest of extending Dinner Club by a few extra minutes we decided to share a slice of cheesecake and everyone ordered coffee (I’ve never had espresso before and it turned out to be a bad idea since I was wired at 3am and needed to drug myself to sleep). As we finished our dessert, Sean again appeared from the kitchen to inform us that the entire meal was going to be on the house. None of us could believe the generosity of Genet. I think we each jumped up from our seats and raced to the kitchen to thank her and hug her and thank her again. Seriously, that kind of benevolence just doesn’t happen often. You have to be an immensely loving and caring chef to want to share your food with five people while asking for nothing in return. Of course we scrounged up every dollar we could in an attempt to show Sean and Genet our gratitude, but how can you truly express thanks for a such a spectacular meal and such a wonderful act of kindness?
I guess I can try to blog about it and hope that people read this and visit Meals By Genet. Even so, I don’t think sharing my experience is enough to warrant the stellar treatment and cuisine we were lucky enough to delight in last night. I have a feeling all successive Dinner Club meetings will feel like letdowns after this.
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