Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Abyssinian Restaurant, with detours

Has anyone here ever read an article linking the existence of the internet to the dearth of decent modern literature? Or at the very least linking the existence of the internet to the demise of the long, detail-stuffed novel?

Because I am 8,000 words behind schedule on the novel now, and whilst there is a valid argument to be made for blaming this on the fact that I’m a) a lawyer, b) at a really big firm where they, for reasons that escape me, seem to expect that I will work diligently and without pausing for breath for ten or eleven hours a day, c) and I sit with my back to the door of my office so that everyone, most pertinently my boss, can see what I’m doing at any given time d) not to mention that I probably have no writing talent whatsoever anyway…I choose, instead, to blame the internet.

Damn internet, with its beguiling distractions and wanton ways.

Anyway, moving on. I went out to dinner with the husband last night after work, which was very nice. And I promised a friend that I’d give him a rundown of what the restaurant was like (I’m trying to lure him and his wife to Adelaide with the promise of good food, you see. I briefly flirted with the idea of claiming that my city was known for handing out free mojitos on street corners, but my mother always told me not to lie to men who know how to handle a gun*) and thus paid more attention then normal to the food.

Given that I’ve been neglecting this blog, and one of my secret Dream Jobs is to be a food critic anyway, I figured I might as well share my review with you lot.


(Holy crap, that was a long lead in. No wonder I’m so behind on the damn novel).

The Abyssinian – Ethiopian Cuisine

There’s nothing glamorous about the Abyssinian. It’s a kilometre or two out of the city, and the neon sign is past its use-by date. Inside, the tables are covered in floral yellow cloths with a stack of paper napkins on each. Even on a warm Friday night, it was almost empty.

It does, however, feel genuine. Ethiopian artefacts and paintings are everywhere, and cones of incense burning on a little table at the back of the room. Impossibly tall women with amazing hair keep coming in to say hello to the owners. The wine list is practically non-existent, and what is on there is poor quality and over-priced; they are also BYO. They do offer a range of Ethiopian beers, which we didn’t try but are probably far more appropriate as an accompaniment to the food. The food, at least to my ignorant palate, is very very good.

The husband chooses the house speciality, the Doro-wot, chicken legs simmered in a sauce of berbere (red chile pepper), minced shallot and egg. The Doro-wot sauce is a dark paprika-red, and apparently with quite a kick to it; ‘like a cross between a Hungarian goulash and a Vindaloo’, I am instructed. It, like mine, is served with injera, a flat bread made from rice flour. Everything is eaten with the hands, of course, which leads us into a discussion about whether this place would be a good idea for a first date or not. We decide that it would be; he because it would allow him to weed out anyone too squeamish to give themselves over to the experience, I because of the finger licking. But I digress.

I go for the Beyianetoo, the mixed vegetarian platter, which at $15.00 is the most expensive thing on the menu. From the top: the kik-alicha (split peas in turmeric sauce) is mild, the turmeric and basil bringing out the nuttiness of the peas. The gomen, spinach and onions sautéed with tomatos and garlic, is beautifully fresh, a nice counterpart to the spicier dishes. The fousselia (beans and carrots) is quite bland, and the dinich wot (potatoes and carrots) could have used some lemon to bring out the turmeric and spices. The star, for me, is the messer-wot; red lentils in berbere sauce with garlic, red onions and spices. The lentils have been simmered for hours so they are tender, and their flavour blends with the sauce to produce something rich and luxurious. I could have been content just eating this dish, and perhaps the gomen as a counterpart. Still, the huge variety on the platter is appreciated, and even with the husband helping we don’t manage to finish it.

It’s amazing value, and one of the best meals we’ve had in a while. It probably won’t appeal to anyone who prefers style to substance, but if you like food, you can’t help but enjoy this.

*We have some odd conversations, my mother and I, what can I tell you?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm pleased to see that I'm characterised as being able to handle a gun. I think that pretty much sums me up, huh?

16 November, 2006  
Anonymous Lynn said...

We go to this place all the time. It rocks. I am hooked on the Doro-wat.

By the way, very impressed that you made it through. My English friends were freaked about eating curry with their hands in London. But then you're not typically English squeamish, are you?? ;)

17 November, 2006  
Blogger Mark H. Foxwell said...

One thing you _really_ ought to try at an Ethiopian place is the _coffee_!

They invented coffee, you know.

The only coffee I ever had that surpassed the stuff I could get at the Blue Nile in Berkeley (California, that is) was this blend that included some Jamaica Blue Mountain I sprung for once. (Pure JBM would probably be completely beyond my means, if it is sold anywhere.)

I don't know how to describe these transcendent coffees. I want to say they are kind of chocolatety, but that's not quite it. Rich and strong and yet very smooth; it doesn't feel like it's dehydrating you at all the way many coffees do.

Next time you visit an Ethiopian place ask if they get their coffee from Ethiopia, and if they do, try a cup, I don't care what time of day or night it is.

Of course I always got some benefit from the caffeine because I had to drive an hour and a half or more to get home from Berkeley.

If you ever go to Berkeley, the Blue Nile is on Telegraph, south of the University.

21 November, 2006  

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