Back in the early 90’s there was a little joke that went like this: What’s the height of optimism? An Ethiopian in a dinner jacket. For most of us we only knew about the famine’s in Ethiopia and didn’t really know what was going on there. I didn’t either until I got invited to a place in the Filmore called Rassela’s.
My first thought when my friends told me about the place was Ethiopian cuisine? Isn’t that like, you know, an oxymoron? I was wrong. Totally wrong. I walked in the door with my friends and the Maitre D was in a full on fitted black suit. Here was my Ethiopian in a dinner jacket and he had plenty of reasons to be optimistic. Rassela’s is an upbeat jazz club with a cool vibe when you walk in the door and it was an experience I never had before in my life.
Ethiopian cuisine can be a little odd for those who’ve never had it before. After you place your order your plate comes out and is covered with injera bread. It’s a special spongy bread that looks kind of like a tortilla, but tastes completely different. On top of the bread is your order. Usually stewed meats or vegetables. No knives. No forks. You eat with your hands by pulling off some of the injera and scooping up some of the stew. It’s actually quite a lot of fun and the food is nicely spiced and has a good taste to it. Their Doro Wat which is Ethiopian chicken stew has a taste like no other chicken stew you’ll ever have.
While I don’t know the details it has become obvious that they will be closing due to an alcohol beverage control notice that ownership is being transferred to Lily Nguyen under the name Era Restaurant.
Opening in 1986 Rassela’s has been a fixture on the Filmore scene for almost 30 years. I’m sorry I never got to bring more people there because the food was always excellent if I could get people past eating dinner using their hands. Ethiopian dining is quite a communal experience with the custom of feeding each other. There really is no better way to get to know someone than to have them literally stuff food in your mouth.