Walia Ibex, 2B Clarke St, Sunshine.
It seems a little odd that the flowering of African culture and food that has occurred in the past decade or so in Footscray has not been mirrored in Sunshine or even slightly further afield St Albans.
Well, Walia Ibex – named after a threatened Ethiopian species – is making a start in Sunshine.
The place is kitted out in such a way that it could be interchangeable with any one of half a dozen African eateries in Footscray. No bad thing, that!
A lunch here about a year ago was quite nice, but more in the meat-and-rice Somalian tradition.
These days, the place is more like a proper organised restaurant, with a menu and all!
And the food is a whole lot more focussed – this is Ethiopian tucker through and through, with three different kinds of tibs, doro wot, kitfo and gored gored all featuring on the list.
All meals are a very reasonable $12.
I order the vegetarian combo – “yetesom beyaynetu” – not because it’s cheaper, it’s the same price as the rest, but because I don’t feel like a meaty meal.
The serve looks quite modestly sized but proves more than adequate for a lovely lunch. The single piece of injera is matched just right with the food in terms of proportion.
There’s lentils three ways - a dry and crumbly mix of small brown lentils studded with slices of fresh green chilli; smoother and wetter red lentils that look like they’re cooked with tomatoes but are actually made, I’m told, with a special “Ethiopian chilli powder” (it’s very mild and unspicy); and finally a luscious and turmeric-yellow mix that looks likes it’s made with moong dal or channa dal but which is described as being made with “African beans”.
I love the way these three pulse components complement each other with contrasting colours and textures and flavours.
A highlight is the gorgeously multi-coloured mix of beautifully cooked beetroot and potato – I wish there was a whole lot more of it – while the stalwart mix of cabbage and carrot is tender and just about as lovely.
This is plain, homely food and I love it. It’s a little less oily than similar fare I’ve enjoyed elsewhere, too.
Walia Ibex already has the feel of being something of an African community hub, with lots of folks coming, going, chatting.
If I lived anywhere nearby, I’d be there on a weekly basis.