3.7 2090

The News

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9 August 2090

Press release

The Blue Queen of DC: A review

By Rajat Chaudhuri

Arriving here is no hassle. An armed Italian usher in a gondola rows up to greet you at the rusting jetty across the submerged Indian Head highway. He offers a round-bottom flask of golden tej. You enjoy sips of the honey wine while the boat heads mid-river to the stilted reincarnation of the old National Harbour, now a fin-de-siècle maelstrom of gene-hackers, doomsday cults and highlife holdouts like the Blue Queen – DC’s last Ethiopian eatery.

As you are winched up from the water by a platoon of Pacific islanders, you cannot miss the tanks of the star-shaped hydrogen plant looming like a kraken in the rippling waters of the Potomac. The restaurant is run as a co-operative by the secretive Volcanist cult, and the rustic chic interiors have 19th-century chromolithographs on the walls and long-spouted black clay coffee pots in the alcoves. The warm glow of old-fashioned lamps and traditional basketwork tables for communal repasts impart a homely air; an underwater section offers more familiarity, with mood-matched shape-shifting chairs and holographic projections of the giant obelisks of Aksum.

The dark-eyed Abyssinian owner speaks Amharic, English and Chinese but her American all-male staff, mostly out-of-work farmhands, need language synthesizers. Service is quick; the waiters know their menu and they will diligently explain how they strike a balance between authenticity and “compulsions of the age”.

If you have booked early which, considering volatile circumstances, means at least 60 days prior, expect to be fed well. The omnipotent injera bread is soft, spongy and baked with care from first-generation GM teff which comes closest to the lost original. I still harbour a sinful fascination for real beef, and their minced-meat kitfo, which I ordered rare or lebleb, was tender and melt-in-the-mouth delicious, accented by the chilli burst of mitmita seasoning.

Half of my folks are fish-loving Bengalis from the sunken deltaic region of eastern India, which is why I couldn’t resist the seductive asa tibs. The fried two-headed perch (guaranteed radiation-free) was boosted with the peppery and aromatic berbere spice blend, while my bodyguard went for juicy lamb tibs in the sinful red awaze sauce with its spiced-up heart. But the meat came from a lab.

Vegetarians can try their luck with a variety of stews (wots) prepared with red lentils, chickpeas and more, but most of this would be printed and flavoured airfood proteins rustled up by microbes from carbon dioxide. There are shady gene-hacked varieties too, most popular being the skin-darkening tikil gomen cabbage stew. Round it all off with the full-bodied Ethiopian coffee.

The Volcanists believe a series of eruptions will cool the planet, buying enough time for the forces of justice and reason to prevail. Our taste buds teased and bellies full, as the human-operated lift dropped us back into the swollen Potomac, we could only hope they know what they’re talking about.