It’s been a long time since we’ve done a restaurant review. Between all of the non food stuff we’ve been posting, and the Top Chef recaps, and the fact that we just don’t have the time or money to find new restaurants, reviews haven’t been in the cards. But we just discovered a gem in our own backyard – Ellington’s on 8th. We’ve long avoided Ellington’s because of the live music. Not that the live music was bad, it’s just both J and I find it hard to have a conversation with live music in the background. Therefore, we’ve never wanted to have a meal at Ellington’s (where live music is part of the experience).
Last Friday, however, we were just too tired to go any further than a block away from our place so the logical choice was Ellington’s. It was a pleasant surprise that the actual dining room of Ellington’s was in the back, away from the music. The yellow walls and the wood rafters gave the room a warm, almost Provencal feeling. It faced sliding glass doors that led onto the patio. That definitely insured a return trip. Ellington’s is definitely a hole in the wall experience in the good and bad ways. The service was friendly and informal but perhaps a little too informal. Many dishes were unavailable and we had to wait for our entrees. But we were served with good cheer and the wait staff apologized for the delay.
One nice thing about Ellington’s is that each table got its own pitcher of water. This makes a HUGE difference for me because I drink water ALL the time. If anyone reads our restaurant reviews regularly, you’ll know that water is a big thing for me. I like prompt, tasty, and plentiful. And free. At some point I will do a post on the best tap water I’ve tasted. But that’s another post. I will sing the praises of their homemade rolls, which are the best rolls I have ever tasted. The rolls were served warm and were light and fluffy with a hint of sweetness. It was so good, I asked for another round of rolls. Thank god I got them because the service that night was SLOOOOOW. It took a fairly long time to get our ground beef patties (they were out of the chicken patties but it was well worth it. The patties are misnamed because they are more like Caribbean empanadas. The crust was flavored with I think tumeric and was surprisingly not greasy. The meat inside had a hint of curry. Enough to make the patty interested without overpowering the flavor of the meat. I was baffled by the jerk sauce. The jerk seasoning was a strong mix of salty and bitter that were really complements to the patty. After one taste, I just ignored it.
In what took a lifetime, we finally got our entrees. While I ordered the chicken Mafe which is chicken with a peanut tomato sauce, I ended up getting served the beef Mafe. I was too hungry to turn it down. It was really divine. This was like an African goulash with peanut butter both thickening the sauce and giving it a rich flavor that didn’t scream PEANUT. J’s dish was the jerk tofu. The tofu was a great consistency but the bitterness of the herbs really distracted from the dish. What compensated for that were the pigeon peas and rice and the sautéed cabbage which were both excellent.
Despite the slow service, Ellington’s is a place we’d go back to. Their Caribbean and African dishes seem really authentic and have flavors that you don’t find in most other restaurants. And the restaurant is a training ground for African immigrants who want to learn about the restaurant business. What we’re looking forward to is their Thursday all you can eat BBQ buffet.