At Ibex Ethiopian, the Dishes (and the Vibe) Are Communal

And the menus, thankfully, have numbers.

If you're an Ethiopian-food novice, you might find yourself drawn to one of the shiny new restaurants serving it around Dallas. They're sleek, almost trendy places, serving a training-wheeled version of that nation's robust cuisine on clean white plates. They even trim their injera, the country's signature spongy bread, into pretty little squares, a la Mom and her PB&Js. They also dilute their menus with Americanized dishes that feel out of place.

Desta, tucked just south of Interstate 635, on a sparsely developed block of Greenville Avenue, offers just this type of experience. Purists can delight in its homemade injera. Desta is one of a few restaurants in Dallas with the patience to make theirs in-house. They also provide a comfortable ambiance that's welcoming to diners reluctant about dishes with exotic names.

But those with a real eye for authenticity — and a bargain — would do better to head one block north, to Ibex Ethiopian Bar and Cuisine. Look carefully or you'll miss it: Its sign is as understated as its cooking.

Ibex's food is easy to enjoy, even if the restaurant isn't so easy to spot.
Sara Kerens
Ibex's food is easy to enjoy, even if the restaurant isn't so easy to spot.

Location Info

Map

Ibex Ethiopian Restaurant

12255 Greenville Ave., Dallas, TX
Dallas, TX 75243

Category: Restaurant > Ethiopian

Region: Garland & Vicinity

Details

Ibex Ethiopian Cuisine & Bar
Kitfo $11.99
Awaze tibs 11.99
Veggie combo $9.99
Ye-beg wot 11.99
Doro wot $11.99

This is hands-on eating. Communal consumption is what makes Ethiopian food compelling. If your back's strong, have a seat at one of the family-style mesob tables that line the front of the dining room, just past the folding screens that separate the space from the bar.

The traditional tables lend themselves to sharing. They're small and intimate, keeping your friends within reach. And you should bring friends. Consider brunch on a Sunday, when coffee is served from the traditional station in the dining room. Or maybe a Saturday, a little late, when a DJ mans the booth in the back, and the place shifts from restaurant to bar to, later, nightclub.

I went a little earlier on one of my visits, sliding in quietly among Ibex's strong Ethiopian following. A trio of men watched Man City tie L.A., a snoozer of a friendly. They were sharing, too: peanuts and beer by the pitcher while they sat at the bar. A younger group sat outside on the patio tables, sipping from bottles, waiting for an evening scene to build.

Ibex's tri-fold, plastic-lined menu is easy to navigate. Numbers make ordering less of a chore with the soft-spoken staff (they don't speak much English) and dish descriptions sometimes run three lines deep, with plenty of options. Don't like meat raw? Just say so; they'll cook it to your liking. Collards not your thing? Substitutes are available. The menu's language carries a polite, welcoming tone, inviting you to explore — and the prices make it easy to do so with abandon.

Vegetarians beware: The menu's veggie section hides at least one protein landmine. The combo dish sports fish — which, to be clear, is not a vegetable — and it arrived over-cooked during one of my visits. The fins and skin were delightfully crunchy, but the flesh was dry, even when dressed with a squeeze from the limes served on the side.

That menu snafu aside, Ibex is a place where the meat-free should feel comfortable. Ethiopian cooking produces vegetable dishes that aren't a consolation prize. Ibex's may even sway devout carnivores. Order the combo without fish and a large, stainless steel plate arrives, with dishes surrounding the perimeter like numbers on a clock. The kitchen pays no attention to the items listed on the menu, serving instead whatever's on hand on a given night. The order is a gamble, and a fun one.

You might land the split-pea puree, a simple concoction of legumes boiled into a loose paste and flavored with garlic. Other lentils get a little more attention, adding onions cooked down to bring out their sugar, seasoned with spice and acid, and other tart things. Carrots lend a sweetness to cabbage tinged yellow with turmeric. Collards boiled till tender receive a little lemon to bring out a vegetal flavor.

The salad, though, whiffs. Romaine soaked in dressing that tastes like bottled Italian is misplaced, even if jalapeño peppers bring their familiar heat. A simple salad of red tomatoes, onions and peppers, dressed in lemon and a little oil, would fit better. It would also complement the kitchen's rich and hearty stews.

Somewhere it's written that every Ethiopian restaurant must serve the country's national dish. Doro wot, a hearty chicken stew, seems a little risk-adverse, like ordering spaghetti and meatballs at the sight of a red-check tablecloth. It's always spiked with chile and cardamom, and includes a chicken leg braised to oblivion and a hard-boiled egg that's cooked with an equally heavy hand.

They're traits that lean toward traditional Ethiopian cooking, but they don't appeal to typical American tastes. Over-braised chicken is a paradox, for starters. How can something submerged in warm liquid for hours seem so dry? An egg cooked past perfection is even more troubling. The white becomes tough, dense and rubbery, the yolk, green and malodorous. But Ibex breathes new life into this tired dish. Two chicken thighs, floating in a dense and onion-laden sauce, retain their succulence, while the egg yolk manages to barely hold on to a faint canary hue.

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3 comments
Gabrielespinello
Gabrielespinello

Ibex is one of the worst Ethiopian restaurant in Dallas. The food not so good. And the service is very poor. The owner is also an arrogant person that does not know how to deal with customers. So if you want to go to an Ethiopian restaurant go to Desta restaurant, that is very close to Ibex, Lalibela or Queen of Sheeba.

Rod Stasick
Rod Stasick

Thanks for the review. Eating Ethiopian food for 30 years. Had my eye on this place after having to leave Lalibela due to roaches on three different occasions. Love Desta, Addis Ababa, and Queen of Sheba. Being vegetarian, I'll stick with these others. I may try Ibex,but I'm not expecting much. Too bad the paper version kept spelling it "kifto." - LOL!

Rod

Love Eth2007
Love Eth2007

i totally disagree with you, i love ibex restaurant. i don't know where you get this from, probably u lost the taste of real Ethiopia food. i have been different Ethiopian restaurant in dallas but no other restaurant would compare like ibex, i pre much go everyday to enjoy the food, the place( the traditional decoration) also the service. As a customer i recommend to everyone to tryout ibex restaurant. the service is great and the owner is friendly and a business guy. i never had any problem. thanks

 
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