I recently dined at Bati with a few of my friends on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Upon entering, I noticed the restaurant’s décor. It is decked with original paintings from Ethiopia with sounds of traditional music adding to its intimate setting. Bati was full of patrons but it didn’t take long for us to be seated. Our waitress was very attentive and friendly.
When our food was served, I instantly noticed the ample portions. Upon first taste, the ingredients stimulated my taste buds. The side vegan dishes were a hit with my group, but that was just the beginning. When it comes to Ethiopian food, as much as I like Misir and Shiro, I am a big fan of Tibs and Kitfo. And on Saturday at Bati, that is where I was sold. The fresh Tibs and Kitfo were an instant favorite among my friends and me.
The name Bati holds a significant meaning. Bati is a small town located in the heart of Wollo, North East Ethiopia. It is the center of the market held each Monday of the week, where people of different ethnicities gather to trade and exchange merchandise. Bati is known as a social gathering place for many people. There is also a famous Ethiopian song dedicated to this legend of Bati called Ere Bati Bati. With this in mind, owner Hibist Legesse decided to name her restaurant Bati. “All around, it’s a really wonderful name. I looked and saw no restaurants with that name; I was surprised and happy to name it Bati.”
While spending several years looking for restaurant space in Manhattan, and getting ready to move to Brooklyn, a thought occurred to Hibist. “I thought does the restaurant have to be in Manhattan if I am going to be moving to Brooklyn?” And so the decision to establish the restaurant in Brooklyn was made. “Brooklyn is a good place for Ethiopian food. I knew that if we did Ethiopian food in Brooklyn, it would have to be made fresh. The neighborhood is really conscious and serious about how they spend their money on food. I wanted to pay more attention to that.”
Well known for its fresh vegan dishes, Hibist explains that she wants to accommodate the health conscious area. “The vegan dishes- like all dishes- are made using fresh ingredients from the very beginning.” Hibist is a big believer in using all fresh ingredients, all the time. “Very hardly do we use dry ground spices.” The vegan menu includes a few Fitfit dishes which are served cold, a good choice especially during the summer. Bati also serves up some unique vegan dishes like Telba (Flax Seed) Fitfit. The vegetarian dishes are prepared in the same way food is prepared for those who fast during the time of lent in Ethiopia. “This is a very strict process in which no dairy and or meat is included in the preparation.” While the vegan dishes are well liked, the Doro Wat is also another popular dish. “I’m happy to know that. Especially for Ethiopians, you are measured by how good your Doro Wat is.”
In a little over a year Bati has come a long way since its first opening week. “We opened in January, on a week that was one of the coldest of the season. So many things were going wrong. We definitely had a few hard lessons. A few weeks later a blogger wrote an amazing review that helped us.” Since that review, things started to get a little easier. “Little by little we were able to make improvements.” Now, Hibist looks to the future with high hopes. “We want to expand the menu so that it’s more efficient and attract more people. We want to get the word out that Ethiopian food can be healthy and amazingly good.”
With fresh food and sensible prices, Bati has easily become a neighborhood favorite, and mine as well. I will definitely visit Bati again, and soon.
For more information visit www.batikitchen.com.