Ethiopian cuisine is one of my greatest culinary loves so I was psyched when a friend of mine from the Craft & Folk Art Museum invited me to come eat at his family’s new restaurant, Azla Vegan. Located in Mercado La Paloma in Historic South Central Los Angeles, this modern space is inviting with it’s vibrant food and friendly staff. Upon my visit, I was met with open arms by the beautiful Nesanet, who so eloquently runs the show, and she kindly introduced me to her mother Azla, who is the chef behind the whole operation. Azla, the only Ethiopian restaurant in South L.A., blossomed from the family’s love for healthy vegan fare but done so without sacrificing flavor. I am so thankful the family decided to share their creations with all of us!
Azla’s menu focuses on creative interpretations of traditional Ethiopian dishes, using local and organic produce. You can order a combo meal, offering 1 to 4 different items (depending on how hungry you are) and it’s paired with your choice of gluten-free injera bread or brown rice. Injera, if you are not familiar, is a porous flatbread that absorbs spices, juices, and flavors perfectly, not to mention an ideal way to eat with your hands, tearing off tiny pieces for each bite. My colorful plate consisted of a rainbow of flavors, including Keysir (marinated beets, red onion), Kale Salad with garbanzo beans + pomegranate seeds, Gomen (kale, collards, garlic), Fasolia (carrots, green beans, caramelized onions), Yatakilt (curry potatoes, carrots, cabbage), Kik (yellow split peas, tumeric, ginger) and a seasonal special of Pumpkin Curry. I had a tall glass of refreshing Sorrel with ginger, which complimented my meal, a drink that spoke to this Mexican American girl forever in love with jamaica – hibiscus to much of the world. The beauty of eating something so incredibly healthy and dense in nutrients is that it leaves no room for a food coma, or itis if you will. Upon completion of my meal, instead of feeling like I needed a nap, I felt as if I could run a half marathon. Nes and Azla aimed to create a healthy option in the community and they most definitely succeeded.
DID SOMEONE SAY ETHIOPIAN PIZZA? My jaw dropped when Nes pulled a pizza from the oven, something they had been testing out, which has officially been added to the menu. Incredibly flavorful and unique, it’s the best vegan + gluten free pizza I have tasted, with a tomato sauce bursting with berbere, an Ethiopian mix that consists of 15 different spices. Upon my first bite, I literally jumped up in the air thinking I just ate something so few have before me – it was a special moment – and it was delicious! Azla is creating great food that makes you feel good.
Azla Vegan, 3655 S Grand Ave Ste# C2, Los Angeles, CA 90007