Restaurant Guide 2013: Bete-Lukas

2504 SE 50th Ave., 477-8778,

[ETHIOPIAN ELEGANCE] With its spare dining room, earth-toned walls and folded cloth napkins, Bete-Lukas looks like it should be hosting a stodgy tech conference or a particularly dull wedding reception. But don't write off this relatively upscale Ethiopian outpost, where the bar's neon lights change from fuchsia to teal to lime and the servers bring sass alongside the sambusas. Those triangular pastries are a Northeast African take on the Indian standby, with delicately spiced lentils or veggies wrapped in a thin and crispy shell. After being warned the jalapeño-cilantro sauce was spicy, my dining companion said it had only caused him a single tear. "I can see the trail of salt on your cheek," our server quipped. There was no need to cry over any of the dishes that followed, including the misser wot, rich red lentils with onion and smoky berbere sauce, and the tikel gomen, a satisfying blend of cabbage, carrots and potatoes in a mildly sweet curry that cuts the heat of the other dishes. Bete-Lukas does vegetables best, but don't miss the excellent ye-beg tibs, tender bites of rosemary- and Serrano pepper-inflected lamb, which offer a nice alternative to the soupier puddles on the injera canvas.

Ideal meal: Lentil sambusas, veggie combo and ye-beg tibs, with a glass of tej (honey wine) to cut the fire.

Best deal: The combos—veggie for $11 or beef for $14—allow you to sample a lot of the menu for not a lot of money.

Pro tip: Dining alone? Sit at the bar, order a honeyed Ethiopian lager and get those charming servers all to yourself.

5 pm-close Tuesday-Sunday. $$.


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