Word: Addis Ababa Hawaii, the Ethiopian popup restaurant that’s been serving three-course medleys in the Le Cacao Bistro space on Waialae every Thursday night, is vacating the premises to look for new digs. Which means if you’ve been wanting to try Ethiopian homestyle cooking served on real injera bread, you have two more Thursdays.
I found out Monday over a grilled sandwich. The woman at the next table was smiling shyly at me; I smiled back and realized she was Meron Girma Spencer, the Addis Ababa native whose cooking transported me back through centuries and across ancient spice routes when I tried it in March. My imagination was locked on images of north Africa, taste buds humming, fingers tearing at Spencer’s bubbly, slightly sour injera and rolling into it morsels of stewed lamb, chicken, sweetly spiced carrots, lentils and feta cheese, when news trickled in that black waves triggered by a massive earthquake had swallowed parts of northeastern Japan, and the world abruptly telescoped.
I’ve always meant to go back. In addition to serving up evocative tastes we don’t otherwise find in Hawaii, Addis Ababa offers the set menu with coffee for about $30. At the end of the evening Spencer roasts the beans over a small stove and walks slowly around the tables with the pan, letting diners inhale the aroma before she grinds, brews and serves the coffee with dessert — just as she and her friends do when visiting each other’s homes in Ethiopia, she says. It’s a charming package, exotic in a simple, homey way, and after Aug. 11 it’ll be on hiatus for a while.
Spencer and her UH professor husband James are looking for a new location. They’re hoping to set up again in a few weeks, but without a confirmed locale, the date is unclear. The new place will bring an expanded menu, Spencer says, including the version of minestrone soup long ago adapted from Italy and eaten by Ethiopians today.
As I said, the world telescopes.
Addis Ababa Hawaii
Thursday nights @ Le Cacao Bistro (formerly J2 Asian Fusion)
3441 Waialae Ave.
Check for updates at Addis Hawaii on Facebook