Have you ever had Ethiopian food? Yeah, neither had I until I read about this magical place in downtown LA, right by USC’s campus, called Azla Vegan. And then I went and got to sample all the food they make, and now I dream about it at night. (I’m literally considering driving to the restaurant as I type this…)
Azla Vegan is a family company. And I really mean a family company. Not like Johnson & Johnson, but like Nes is the owner of the business, and her mother Azla is the head chef. Nes also has a rad clothing and other goods store right next to the restaurant called, Azla+Tesh (Tesh is her father’s name.) And now Nes’ cousin, Leah runs the social media and marketing for the store and restaurant. So by “family company” I mean, they ALL are invested in the restaurant on a daily basis. And I felt right at home the moment I walked in.
They were kind enough to let me sample EVERYTHING on the menu. So I’ll tell you my favorites, but the truth is you really can’t go wrong. I loved the Shiro (which is a spicy ground chickpea stew). I loved the Misir Wot (aka the spicy red lentils). I also loved the Zucchini Pesto Pasta, because it was light and fresh and not over powering. And then there were a few surprises for me… the first were the Tofu Tibs, which is just some tofu with veggies, but oh my lord the tofu was good. It had a lot of flavor, but wasn’t overpowering. I find tofu is hard to make surprising, but they sure did it. The other surprise was the homemade Awaze. Which is the redish looking “salsa” in the middle. It has a flavor that my pallet has never experienced before, and so it took me a minute to get used to it, but after that I fell in love. I wanted to pour it all over everything, but I resisted.
We also can’t talk about Ethiopian food or Azla Vegan without talking about Injera. It’s like a spongy soft bread that you can use as a shovel for food. And at Azla they have made it gluten free! So I used it to mop up all of the delicious flavors of the food, and to shovel a ton of food into my mouth at once. WORTH IT.
Now that we have discussed the food a bit, lets get back to the atmosphere. Earlier I said that I felt right at home here. Well it was easy to, because they cared so deeply about every ounce of my experience. They even plated my food for me. I’m telling you it was better (and more personable) service than most 5 star restaurants.
If your mouth isn’t watering by now, you should go to the doctor cause something is seriously wrong. Please for the love of health and happiness, get your ass off the couch and drive yourself over to Azla Vegan. You won’t regret it.
*** I should also note that Azla Vegan is inside a “vendor market” type building. So don’t get confused. They have a parking lot for the building, and then you can wander around and do some fair-trade shopping after you’ve filled your belly to the top. Now, that sounds like a good afternoon to me.