The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Ethiopian food @ Nyala African Restaurant, Melbourne (Australia)

We met up with some of my Melbournite friends when we were in Melbourne a couple of months ago. We had gone to primary school together in Perth, and we've all since moved away from our home city. One of the things I love about Australia is the multiculturalism which results in a rich variety of cuisines available. I particularly appreciate the dining scene in Melbourne, which seems more diverse than other Australian cities. When one of my friends suggested we met up for dinner at Nyala African Restaurant, I enthusiastically voted "yea" (and no one said "nay"). I've had a bit of exposure to African food previously, but not very much, and I still remember our interesting experience at an Ethiopian restaurant in New York city. Injera, a sourdough flatbread with a spongy texture, made a particular impression on me, and I was please to note that injera was on the menu at Nyala.

I quite liked the African-themed decor of the restaurant, and even the ceiling lampshades had African painting on them. The owners were quite obviously African, which added to the authenticity of the experience. Service was friendly and helpful, and the owner did his best to accommodate my son's allergies (though the poor kid who has severe sesame allergies accidentally touched the tahini dip when he reached for the bread and suffered allergic conjunctivitis as a result). The food was simple and rustic (as one would expect traditional African food to be), but tasty and full of flavour, and there was something on the menu for meat-lovers, vegans and everyone in between. For main courses, Nyala offered combination sets which allowed diners to choose up to four dishes on one plate, and this was a good option for first-time visitors to sample a variety of food.

A combo of all three dips accompanied by mahloul (mountain bread): Tahini (sesame paste, yoghurt, lemon juice and olive oil), deberja (egg plant with turmeric, coriander, cumin, capsicum and garlic blended with natural yoghurt) and lentils (with berbere chilli, onion, fresh garlic and spices) - AU$12.50 for the combo:

Hubby and I went for the Beyay-Netu (Ethiopian Platter), which gave us the choice of any four dishes from both the meat and vegetarian menu, and served with salad and injera. Between the two of us, we ordered eight of the nine dishes from the meat and vegetarian menus. The vegetarian dishes were tasty and richly spiced, and I also enjoyed the two chicken dishes. However I thought that the red meat dishes were quite unremarkable. Looking back at our experience at the Ethiopian restaurant in NYC, I also wrote that the vegetarian dishes were better than the meats - so perhaps vegetable dishes in Ethiopian cuisine are prepared better than the meat dishes. Or perhaps I like vegetables and chicken more than red meat!

Injera, a national dish of Ethiopia. Traditionally, injera would be spread on the table like an edible tablecloth, food would be ladled out on top of the injera, and we would be tearing off portions of the injera with our hands to eat with the food:

My plate: Keke-Wot (split pea with onion, garlic, peri peri and other spices), Kuku Na Nazi (Kenyan chicken curry with coconut and mild spices), Defen-meser (brown lentils cooked with garlic, chopped tomato, tumeric and coriander), and Beg Tibs (marinated and spiced lamb cubes sautéed with fresh tomato, rosemary and white wine) - AU$25 for the combo:

Hubby's choice of four: Doro Dibs (boneless pieces of chicken marinated in herbs and spices, sautéed in mild chilli, served with Nyala’s Awazi sauce), Futari (a Tanzanian vegetarian dish with cabbage, potato, carrot and seasonal vegetable cooked with mild spices, and topped with coconut milk), Nyala special (a traditional Ethiopian stew using lean boneless beef, ginger, garlic and homemade peri peri with other spices) and Domeda (a Gambian dish with beef, smooth peanut butter, potatoes, herbs and spices) - AU$25 for the combo:

I had a great time catching up with old friends (one whom I hadn't seen for over a decade!) over delicious African food.

Nyala African Restaurant
Level 1
356 Brunswick St
Fitzroy VIC 3065
Tel. +61 3 9419 9128

Nyala African on Urbanspoon

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