Delicious Spree LA to Z: F is for Fassica
LAist is going on a delicious spree around LA from A to Z. This week, we continue where we left off, with F. Today, we visit Fassica, an Ethiopian restaurant somewhat removed from LA's Little Ethiopia on Fairfax. It's on Washington Boulevard in Culver City.
Fassica finally has a permanent sign to replace the canary yellow and royal blue plastic banner that used to flap in the breeze above the front door. When we walked in the front door, she was there. She is Sebel Asfaw, the owner and the only person working in the whole place. When she saw us, her face was bright and she welcomed us with a wide, warm smile, just like the sweet Ethiopian aunt we've never had. Did she recognize us from the first time we were there?
We looked over the menu, and though it has good descriptions of the foods, we had lots of questions (mostly about spice levels). In the end, we ordered the Fassica Special combination platter. This is what we had done last time at Fassica, the best first-time introduction to Ethiopian food. This is the best thing for first-timers, right? Sebel nodded with a smile and then softly shuffled back to the kitchen.
Sebel had dropped off a basket of folded injera at the table. A soft ash gray color, the Ethiopian flat bread made from teff, a type of wheat that Sebel imports from her home country. The flat bread is about a ¼ inch thick of light, airy sponge, thinning out to feather light paper weight at the edges. We resisted eating too much – the stuff is a sponge, and we didn’t want it to expand into massive teff-y balls in our stomachs before the food arrived.
Because she is the only one in the restaurant, Sebel does everything - she is the hostess, she is the server, and she is the cook. Because she does everything, service is a little bit slow. We're not sure if slow is slow, or if that's simply the way Ethiopian food is served.
Sebel came back with our lunch. Last time, it was an enormous oval, this time a rectangle the size of a large flat screen monitor. (Is this a sign that we need a new career?) The platter was a gorgeous colorful patchwork of various Ethiopian foods from canary yellow, scarlet red and chestnut brown lentils, to deep dark green collard greens, to fresh green salad, all resting atop and juices soaking into the spongy soft, subtly sour injera underneath.
Everything was delicious, from the barely bitter yet tender gomen wot (collard greens) to the ever-so-slight natural sweetness of the yeater kik alicha (yellow lentils), yemisir kik (red lentils), and yemisir (brown lentils), to the mild atkilit alicha (cabbage, carrots, and potatoes), to the earthy alicha wot , to the delayed spicy heat in the various tibs (beef). Everyone else seems to tangle their tastebuds over doro wot, a deeply flavorful and complex chicken stew, but we'll be honest, we didn't love the chicken. However, the injera underneath had turned scarlet red from the juices, fat, and drippings that had seeped out and soaked into the sponge-y bread, and that was delicious. Cool, creamy ayib (Ethiopian cottage cheese, homemade by Sebel) and a green salad with Italian dressing were refreshing sides.
We liked all of it, some things more than others, and when we saw the mostly cleaned out plate of food that was probably enough to feed six, we wanted to breathe a sigh relief. We couldn't. Like the first time, our eyes had outdone our appetites. We were so full, we was breathless. Sebel asked us if we wanted to finish with Ethiopian coffee, but we passed - we knew what it was about, and didn't have the time for Sebel to roast the beans herself back in the kitchen, grind them, brew the coffee, then pour in a ceremony.
Fassica Ethiopian Restaurant
10401 Washington Boulevard (@ Motor Avenue)
Culver City, CA 90232