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photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Flavors From Afar image
8.7

Flavors From Afar

This spot is Temporarily Closed.

Pan-AfricanWest African

Little Ethiopia

$$$$Perfect For:Unique Dining ExperienceImpressing Out of Towners
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Note: Flavors From Afar has closed its Fairfax location, but plans to reopen in East Hollywood in 2024.

“It’s all been done before”—a line from a hit song by 90s Canadian alt-rock group Barenaked Ladies and something most of us have probably thought walking into an LA restaurant. There are only so many hanging vines, cursive neon signs, and servers updating their iMDB page while you order before it all becomes one gigantic blur. So when you need a break from that monotony, here’s a prescription: go to Flavors From Afar. 

Part restaurant, part chef incubator, part community non-profit, this tiny cafe in Little Ethiopia is one of the most objectively unique and memorable places to eat in the city. But it’s not just memorable because it’s different, it’s memorable because the food is great, too. 

Though Flavors From Afar in some ways bends the definition of what it means to be a restaurant, this is still a regular brick-and-mortar with regular weekly hours. They offer lunch and dinner service, and reservations are available, too—something we recommend as the cozy, tchotchke-filled space fills up nightly with dates sharing steamy Syrian stew and friends passing around Afghan dumplings and towering plates of Palestinian maqluba. It’s also a place where you can continuously go back and have a completely different experience. Each month, Flavors hosts a guest refugee chef who builds a menu highlighting traditional dishes from their culture. Past menus have featured food from Venezuela, Egypt, Senegal, Chechyna, Lebanon, Eritrea, Haiti, Kenya, and Navajo Nation, to name a few. On top of that, 40% of each bill is donated to the Tiiya Foundation, a non-profit (started by Flavors’ founder) that organizes opportunities and resources for immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers in Southern California. 

Flavors From Afar image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Flavors From Afar image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Flavors From Afar image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Flavors From Afar image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Flavors From Afar image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Flavors From Afar image
Flavors From Afar image
Flavors From Afar image
Flavors From Afar image
Flavors From Afar image

If you’re anything like us, you’re probably wondering if you’re even a good person in comparison to those running Flavors. It’s a valid question, but what we can say is the staff here are more than just servers and hosts, they’re educators. Whether it’s your first time or your fourth time, they’ll happily walk you through the menu, explain the restaurant’s overarching mission, and detail exactly where your money is going. It’s a process designed to answer any questions or curiosities you probably walked in with, clearing the way for the main attraction: the food. 

The bulk of the menu here changes monthly (their Instagram is a great place to keep up-to-date), but there is a section of the menu that largely stays the same. Called the “classics,” it’s a highlight reel of popular dishes from previous guest chefs. Here you’ll find decadent Haitian short ribs, a prehistoric-sized lamb shank smothered in Egyptian gravy, and an Indo-Fijian pooja plate, a technicolored platter of stewed lentils, spicy jackfruit, and butternut squash. We recommend picking a few dishes from this section (for us, that’d be the Somali chicken fried rice and Kenyan tilapia pan-fried in coconut), then filling out your order with whatever catches your eye from the monthly menu. 

When your table is filled up with dishes from four or even five different continents, you’ll know you’re doing a meal at Flavors From Afar right. And if you’re fearing a competition of spices given such geographic differences, don’t. There’s a hearty, homestyle warmth to the cooking here that makes every dish taste like it’s coming from the same pot. It’s a simple concept, but one that’ll have you planning out your next meal here before the current one’s done. And how many times have you done that before?

Food Rundown

Flavors From Afar image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Kenyan Pan Fried Coconut Tilapia

We’ve begun lighting a candle before bed each night in the hope that this dish never gets taken off the menu—it’s that good. A flaky, meaty tilapia filet that’s been lightly fried on the outside and topped with sweet coconut sauce. It’s our favorite dish at Flavors From Afar, and after one bite, you’ll be running to the candle store, too.
Flavors From Afar image

Somali Chicken Fried Rice

OK, let’s call this our favorite dish, 1A. It’s a hefty plate of food, but ideal for putting at the center of your table so everyone in your group can pick at it throughout the meal. The pan-seared chicken on top is so succulent you don’t even need a knife to pull pieces off, and the thick, salty cuts of fried potato blend perfectly with the heat of the turmeric-infused rice.
Flavors From Afar image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Indo-Fijian Pooja Plate

This plate can sometimes be a little oversalted, but on the nights when the kitchen hits the balance right, it’s fantastic. It’s also beautiful—like when Dorothy lands in Oz and everything’s in technicolor for the first time. The plate comes with creamy butternut squash, spicy shredded jackfruit, and stewed lentils—all neatly sectioned off from each other. But for us, the dish gets even better as everything mixes together.
Flavors From Afar image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Crispy Somali Sambusas

You’re hopefully going to arrive at Flavors From Afar hungry, so we suggest getting an appetizer on the table before things get chippy. Go for the sambusas. They’re flaky, pillowy, and big enough to cut in half for sharing. You get your choice of fillings and we recommend getting one chicken, one cheese and potato, and one veggie.
Flavors From Afar image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Thieboudienne

On our last visit, Flavors From Afar was hosting a guest chef from Senegal, with a menu of traditional dishes like beet and boiled egg-topped salad and mafe, a spicy peanut-butter-based beef stew. But the standout dish for us was the thieboudienne. This savory braised platter is the national dish of Senegal and comes with flaky snapper steak that’s been stuffed with garlic, onion, and habanero. It's spicy and fragrant, but light enough to leave room for more great dishes.
Flavors From Afar image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Haitian Short Ribs

You’re going to have to be at peace with over-ordering at Flavors From Afar—it’s just a fact. Will you have stomach room for these decadent short ribs? No. Will you still order them because the mustardy epis sauce drizzled on top makes it better than pretty much every other plate of short ribs in town? Absolutely.

FOOD RUNDOWN

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Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant image
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