Lessons In Ethiopian Cuisine

This weekend I tried Ethiopian food for the first time at Lalibela Restaurant on Bloor Street.

We arrived for an early dinner on sunny Saturday not really knowing what to expect. I had heard that you eat with your hands and to expect a bread-like side called injera, but otherwise we were pretty clueless.

First lesson in Ethiopian: Order the Harar beer. Jordan and I started with two of the lighter Ethiopian beers called Harar. It’s a light tasting, amber ale and goes down smooth.

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This meal is shaping up to awesome.

Second lesson in Ethiopian: Share! Most of the dishes come on a large injera (the pancake-looking thing below) for everyone at the table to share.

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Perfect for sharing!

We ordered two entrees to share. The one pictured above is called “Doro tibs” which is chicken sauteed with spiced butter, garlic and green pepper. It comes with injera on the side too. The photo below is the second dish we ordered – “Bozena Shero” which is seasoned chick peas simmering in berbere sauce with beef. It comes served in this traditional Ethiopian pot, boiling away.

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I love chick peas, and these ones were seasoned perfectly. I loved the consistency of this dish and could have slurped it like a soup right out of this pot if it wasn’t going to scald my whole face.

When the food arrived we quickly realized we had no idea how we were supposed to eat it. We had no cutlery and we suddenly remembered that we probably weren’t going to get any. So what are we supposed to do with our hands, some flimsy injera and this soup-y pot of goodness?

We immediately regretted not taking notes from the other people around us who had just finished their food and we were too embarrassed to ask our server while we were surrounded by people who seemed to know what they were doing.Β  So what were two socially-savvy losers to do? We Googled it.

Third Lesson in Ethiopian: Don’t be afraid to ask for help when eating food you aren’t familiar with! The staff at Lalibela were lovely and probably would have been more than happy to explain the best way to eat our dinner without the use of our smartphones. You aren’t the first person to try their ethnicity’s food and they know that!

Fourth Lesson in Ethiopian: Wash your hands and don’t be afraid to get a little injera under your nails. Dig in! To eat your dish you have to tear off a palm-sized piece of injera and use it to scoop food up and into your mouth.

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It didn’t take us long to figure out we just had to dig in and get our hands dirty.

Lalibela has two locations – one at Bloor & Ossington and one on the Danforth. This is the one on Bloor. Great little atmosphere! We ducked inside from the bustle of an afternoon on Bloor Street into this quiet restaurant with the most ornate little details everywhere.

Lalibela was voted one of the Best Ethiopian Restaurants in Toronto by NOW Magazine! You can even make reservations online which I thought was pretty cool. Not many restaurants are doing that yet.

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The restaurant is much bigger inside than it looked from the outside. There were maybe 7 other groups of people there at the same time as us but not only did it not feel cramped, but service was quick and nice. Our server was very attentive.

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Fully stocked bar. We even saw Hennessey and Courvoisier on the menu. But remember the First Lesson….

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Lalibela has tons of options on the menu – from fish, lamb, chicken and beef to vegetarian options, soups, and more standard North American fare like sandwiches and they even have a Kids Menu to choose from. We ordered 2 main entrees (including a double order of the Bozena Shero), and 2 beers and had more than enough food for two people (to be honest, we didn’t even come close to finishing it!) for $40 including a generous tip. That is a great deal for two people to go out for dinner and drinks in the city!

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Some of the specials listed on the menu board outside Lalibela.

Do you want to learn your own Lessons in Ethiopian? Or revisit the knowledge you already have?

TeamBuy has a great deal on for Lalibela:
$14 for $40 worth of food & drinks at Lalibela Ethiopian Cuisine
!
Click here to purchase.

 

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1 Comment

  1. April 27, 2012 / 4:36 pm

    Hm. I live right by Lalibela East… maybe I should try it out πŸ™‚ Thanks for the review!