Where's the beef?

By MC SLIM JB  |  June 4, 2008
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Kitfo at Addis Red Sea

Addis Red Sea
544 Tremont Street, Boston | addisredsea.com | 617.426.8727
If you spend much time in the South End, it’s easy to get caught up in the roundelay of new restaurants that have opened amidst the neighborhood’s recent surge of Back Bay–ification. Meretricious newcomers can distract you from such quiet, solid performers as Addis Red Sea, which opened decades before the boutiques selling $700 dresses. I first visited this Ethiopian restaurant 15 years ago, back when heading to Tremont Street marked your seriousness as an aspiring epicure, demonstrating your willingness to risk a mugging for amazing food. It was special to me, like a treasured childhood friend, but lately I’d neglected it for the shiny new places.

I recently renewed my acquaintance with Addis. Taking our seats in the pretty ground-floor dining room, we started remembering what we loved about it: the romantic atmosphere, the low tables, the intimacy of sharing food you eat with your hands. We ordered a bottle of Fleur du Cap sauvignon blanc ($18), a modest South African wine, and two combination plates: kitfo ($14.95) and doro wat ($14.95), effectively two meat dishes and six vegan ones. Kitfo is a tartare-like preparation of raw, finely chopped sirloin loaded with mitmita, a fierce chili powder that lends serious but not overwhelming heat and a beautiful brick-red color. Clarified butter provides glossy richness to this beautiful, simple steak preparation. It’s served on top of a giant round of injera, the spongy sourdough flatbread that is the foundation of the Ethiopian diet.

In fact, injera functions as a tabletop-size plate, eating utensil, and starchy foil for the various highly seasoned meats, legume dishes, and vegetable sautés that made up our meal. (Our server seemed pleased when we ordered extra injera made with teff, an Ethiopian grain rarely seen in the States that produces a darker, richer bread.) We began tearing off strips of injera and using them to scoop up mouthfuls of kitfo, then moved onto doro wot, shredded chicken with a subtle chili fire, sweet spicing, and aromatic garlic and ginger. Next we sampled butecha, a hummus-like chickpea pâté, and tikle gomen: mild cabbage, green peppers, and aromatics. The highly spiced legume stews of yesmir wot (fiery lentils), yesmir alcha (lentils reminiscent of a Punjabi curry), and mittin shuro wot (fiery ground split peas) proved an excellent way to end our dining experience. When our check arrived — all of $50 — I ruefully considered all the overhyped new restaurants on which I’d recently been wasting my money, and vowed right there to dance more often with the girl who brought me to the South End in the first place.

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Lomo Saltado at Rincon Limeño

Rincon Limeño
409 Chelsea Street, East Boston | 617.469.4942
When Peruvian cuisine comes to mind, most think first of two seafood dishes: ceviche (raw fish and shellfish marinated in citrus juices) and the deep-fried platter known as jalea. I love the versions of these classics served at Eastie storefront Rincon Limeño, but I have a hard time resisting its humble steak dinner, lomo saltado ($10). This eminently simple dish mixes together a generous portion of steak tips, sautéed red onion, fresh tomato, French fries, and cilantro. Lomo saltado is one mash-up that is not only attractive, but delicately assembled to preserve each ingredient’s distinctiveness. The flavor of juicy, well-charred beef shines through a rather salty marinade. You can slake your inevitable thirst with Cristal ($4), Peru’s answer to Budweiser, or perhaps the housemade chicha morada ($1.50), a soft drink the color of ink with a sweet-spiced, roasted-corn flavor.

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