|From the Dama restaurant in Arlington, clockwise from the left: kitfo, lentils, cabbage with carrots, tibs, collared greens, and split pea puree. In the middle: doro wat in between different kinds of spiced cheeses.|
Dama, the Ethiopian restaurant and bakery coming to 6669 Little River Turnpike in Annandale, is expected to have a soft opening as early as next week and a grand opening in December, says co-owner Amsale Dama.
The new place will offer the same delicious Ethiopian specialties, like kitfo (finely chopped raw or cooked beef with ayib, a homemade cheese); tibs (cubed lamb or beef cooked with onions, jalapeno, and spices); doro wat (a spicy chicken stew); and bozena shuro (ground roasted split peas simmered in spicy red pepper sauce with sautéed beef).
Everything is served on a large piece of injera, a spongy, sour flatbread made of a grain called tef, that also serves as a utensil. Dama offers vegan varieties of many of its popular items.
The new Dama location will be larger and will serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There will be a bar, a room available for party rentals, and a bakery offering French-style pastries and cakes. Dama does catering, too.
A typical breakfast meal is the Dama Platter, which includes scrambled eggs with diced onions, tomatoes, jalapenos, kinche (Ethiopian-style couscous), and chechebsa (homemade flatbread cut in pieces and mixed with chili paste and spiced butter).
Dama is a family affair. Amsale’s parents had a restaurant in Ethiopia, and her sister-in-law opened a restaurant in Washington, D.C., in the 1980s. It was relocated to Arlington 15 years ago. Amsale’s husband, Hailu Dama, specializes in making Ethiopian coffee. Many of the restaurant employees are relatives and their their two children, former students at Annandale High School, sometimes help out.
Ethiopian coffee, from the Harar region, is very strong and served in small cups. Coffee is a key element of Ethiopian social life. People hang out in cafes talking for hours, while coffee is toasted, ground, and brewed at the table.