- The Food
- The Atmosphere
The air was fresh on a late Saturday morning after what seemed to be the heaven-sent thunderstorm that finally cured Toronto of the humid and muggy weather plaguing the city. This was probably the reason why the whiff of incense caught me by surprise as I entered the decorated doors of Ethiopian House. The smell of incense, albeit a strong aroma, always made me feel at ease. A foreign yet friendly face immediately greeted our party with open arms, a wide smile, and a very different greeting – “Make yourselves comfortable!”. Having gotten use to the typical “Hi there! Table for two? Right this way” greeting at most restaurants, our host’s greeting spoke immensely about the atmosphere he wanted to create for his guests, and it did just that: I felt right at home. Well of course…a home with African decorations, statues and paintings everywhere!
4 Irwin Avenue
Toronto, ON M4Y 1K9
Quite frankly, I’ve been wanting to try something different around the city so after speaking to some friends and doing a few Google searches later, Ethiopian cuisine was something that intrigued me. Without any experience in ordering Ethiopian, the menu was definitely new and exciting to explore. Everything sounded really exotic, which didn’t seem to help our indecisiveness. Relieving us of our troubles, our host graciously suggested the Meat Lunch and Vegetable Lunch Platters, which had a little bit of everything to introduce us to Ethiopian cuisine. I felt like a n00b.
The Meat Platter, otherwise known as the Bayaaynatu, was indeed a great idea. It came with a wide selection of dishes that were all flavourful in their own rights. My favourite was Tibs, a pan-fried beef sautéed with onions, garlic, green peppers, tomatoes, and awaze. Awaze is a paste made from red hot chilli peppers, cloves, and some interesting plants I’ve never heard of called cardamom and afrinji. Whatever they were, they were delicious! The Bayaaynatu also came with Kitfo (Ethiopia’s take on beef tartare), collard greens, and cottage cheese. Next, we had our Vegetable Platter, which was a very typical vegetable mash.
All the dishes were served in diced form that made it easy to grab with Injera bread. Injera bread, the national dish of Ethiopia, is a spongy flatbread used to grab food (you won’t find any cutlery here!) that also doubles as a plate. This was my first experience with Injera and I found the texture very unique. They looked like napkins and felt like Playdough actually.
We finished off our meal with some traditional Ethiopian coffee, opting for the coffee ceremony. Little did we know that the original coffee plantation was actually located in a region called Keffa in Ethiopia! Our host came to our table and showed us the coffee beans he was freshly roasting for us in a pan while we were still busy feasting on our Lunch Platters. This was a unique experience because I’ve never seen beans hand-roasted in a pan before! The process took about 30-45 minutes so the coffee was ready just as we finished our meal.
It was brought out in a wooden kettle, together with frankincense and a basket of popcorn. I thoroughly enjoyed the aroma of the coffee as the Injera bread finally settled. Very satisfying meal =) As an Ethiopian custom, I added a bit of melted butter to the coffee, which surprisingly made the coffee go down smoother. I wonder if this works with Starbucks…
The Ethiopian House was quite the experience. It definitely wasn’t a fancy elegant meal, but going in I knew that I would be eating with my hands. I got what I asked for – a truly exotic bargain meal with new flavours, new dishes, and new bread! I love my bread. The atmosphere was most captivating. It honestly felt like entering someone’s home and having a meal with them in their dining room. The guests were diverse and it seemed like everyone had discovered this African gem before me! I’m now happy to report that I am part of the family… welcome home, friend!
The Damage: $35 after tax