Rahel Buffet is the Only Way You’d Get Me to Eat Vegan

Rahel

When I launched the L.A. branch of Midtown Lunch back in February one of my very first lunch trips was to the area of Fairfax known as Little Ethiopia.  The lunch I had at Rosalind’s was great, and I especially liked how even though everything was under $10 and ordered as individual lunch specials, the food still came out family style.  But as we left I couldn’t help but think we might have chosen wrong when I noticed the $9.99 all you can eat Ethiopian buffet sign across the street at Rahel’s.  “100% Vegan” is never something I enjoy seeing, but if there is one thing that will overrule the words vegan, or healthy, or salad bar, or pork-less,  it’s my four favorite words in the English language (when strung together): “All You Can Eat”.

I kid the vegans of course… I have nothing against meatless lunches, especially when the food is super flavorful, and interesting (aka ethnic.)  Vegetarian Indian food is one of my faves (Samosa House fake chicken FTW!) and Ethiopian kind of falls into that category.  Aggressively spiced veggies, in various colors and flavors, stewed for a long period of time, eaten with delicious bread… how can that be bad?

Rahel

Rahel is what I’d call a small scale buffet, with about 7 different items, plus rice, cracked wheat and all you can eat injera- the sour spongy Ethiopian bread that some might consider an acquired taste.  Every single thing on the line looked worth trying, but one thing I will say is this… if you don’t like lentils, you might be in trouble.  They’ve got lots of lentils, and even the things that weren’t lentils, seemed like lentils.

Rahel

Applying my all you can eat buffet rules, the first plate was a tiny bite of everything.  With only 7 things, this wasn’t too tough (although I’d recommend putting your bread on a separate plate.)  Clockwise from the injera (bread) at the top you’ve got kale, a green sauce , berbere (red pepper sauce), lentil stew in a red pepper sauce, pea stew, whole lentils, potato and carrots stew, string beans and carrots, cabbage stew, and cracked wheat.  All the dishes were very flavorful, but pretty mild, so if you’re hoping for spicy you might be disappointed.  (Of course that’s nothing a bit of the hot sauces couldn’t fix.)  My favorite, hands down, was the lentils in red pepper sauce- which was flavored with nutmeg or cinnamon or something that made it kind of taste like pumpkin pie (by way of Ethiopia, of course.)

Rahel

Everything was really good, so for my second plate I just loaded up with reckless abandon. (Portion analysis will yield opinions of how each item tasted in relation to the others.)

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In addition to the buffet, you get your choice of soup or salad.  Neither are even worth mentioning, and the lentil soup was surprisingly disappointing considering what amazing things they did with lentils on the buffet.  Throw a scoop of buffet lentils into a bowl half filled with water and it would probably have more flavor than this soup did.  Although I think they switch it up every day, so don’t necessarily be discouraged by my bad experience if you’re in the mood for soup.

Sadly there’s no dessert. (That disappointment deserves it’s own line in this post. Feel my pain, people.)

The more I think about it, on paper there’s actually a lot for me to hate about Rahel.  No meat. No dessert.  The ingredients are super cheap, yet the buffet is still $10.  And you can’t help but eat of ton of the delicious bread, a huge no-no at all you can eat buffets.  Plus every Ethiopian restaurant has a veggie lunch special for under $10 that gives you 5-9 different dishes on one plate- negating the whole “variety” positive of the buffet experience.  And, really, how much of this stuff can you eat?

Obviously Rahel is a destination for vegetarians and vegans- but the fact that a fat meat loving cheapo like me also kind of loved it is a testament to how truly great it really is.  I hope it’s not healthy though… is it?

THE +

  • Is there any better way of eating than the All You Can Eat Buffet!?
  • I have a co-worker who is vegetarian… this could be a great place for everybody to go.
  • I love lentils.  Can’t get enough…
  • All you can eat injera?  That’s dangerous.
  • I like Ethiopian food, but hate communal dining.  (Get your hands out of my food!)  This solves that problem…
  • All the dishes were super flavorful

THE -

  • Injera is not really made to be sitting out at a buffet.  You need to eat that stuff hot!
  • Half the fun of Ethiopian food is the communal dining aspect.  You lose that at a buffet.
  • Me… need… meat.
  • I don’t need all that food.  The under $10 vegetarian lunch combos at Ethiopian restaurants are plenty for me, and the variety is just as good.

Rahel, 1047 S Fairfax Ave, 323-937-8401

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2 Comments

  • That looks delicious. I think I’ve read somewhere they have much better selection if you order the veggie combo to share (something like 20+ options)!!

  • I am so happy you enjoy Ethiopian food! I am Ethiopian and I wish NYC had a better selection of restaurants in more locations :/ Judging by what the served you at the all you can eat buffet, they certainly gave you an interesting array of food items. Rice isn’t even part of the Ethiopian diet and the grain they served you in the middle, I think its called kinchi, that is only served for breakfast with warm milk, Ethiopian butter and sugar like a hot cereal. As for your favorite red lentil dish, not sure about cinnamon and nutmeg, I know there is paprika and turmeric so maybe those are the flavors you were enjoying. And it’s hard to imagine they served you kale, it’s usually collard greens and it was my favorite dish growing up because it’s hardly ever spicy. As for the soup, the reason why it was disappointing is because that is not a traditional dish so not unless there is a top chef in the back it won’t be anything special! Yum, Ethiopian food. And just a side note, I know you suggested people to put the bread on the side of the plate but the best way to enjoy injera is if you roll it out and place all the stews on top so that the bread soaks up the delicious butter and spices.
    And I hate to be the one to break it to you but if the injera is really made from teff, an Ethiopian wheat alternative (some places make it with flour! ew.) it is an extremely nutritious and healthy cuisine!!

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