Though thought of by some as a culinary wasteland, Morningside Heights/SoHa has some lovely little gems. Among them is one of our local favorites Massawa. It's some of the best Ethiopian/Eritrean food I've had in the city and the ambiance/wait staff are lovely.
PRESENTATION: Unless indicated on the menu or otherwise requested, the food is served family style on a large platter and is eaten with the hands using the injera bread that comes with almost everything.
FOOD: There is a nicely varied menu that includes meat (beef, chicken, lamb), fish, and veggie options, ranging from sweet and mild to spicy (it's one of the few places in the neighborhood that can actually do spicy food). We often get the Shiro (we prefer the regular to the special) and Timtimo (which are not spicy), and the Fit Fit Awaze (spicy) when we're in a veggie mood. The combo platters they have are also a nice way to sample a few different spice combinations. The downside with the combos is that they are usually just one kind of meat, served two different ways.
DRINKS: The restaurant has a short wine list, and does some decently priced mixed drinks. They also have Addis (lager) and a honey beer (Axum, I think) available in bottles in addition to some standard domestics.
AMBIANCE: The restaurant has low, romantic lighting and a quiet, relaxing atmosphere that is great for conversations. I've been there in groups ranging from 2-6 people, and it's nice to always be able to hear the other people at the table. Also, the music is usually interesting, but unintrusive. Be warned that this is a relaxed setting and the service/time between order and food arrival can be SLOW. It's best to go before you are completely famished and enjoy a drink while you wait for your food. Alternatively, if you live in the neighborhood, the delivery is great.