Ras Dashen, 121 Nicholson St, Footscray. Phone: 9687 3293
For a day off – the first of two in a row – it’s been a helluva day so far.
My nerves are rattled.
It’s taken me three goes – and three separate documents – to fill in the Working With Children Check correctly and with no messy scrawl-outs.
I’ve still got a stat dec to acquire.
As well, the world – or at least the newspaper part of it that’s such a big part of my life but may be so for not much longer – seems to be entering its End Days.
That’s common knowledge, it’s true, but it seems to be gathering momentum.
I need a blanky, some comfort food, some lunch – and the exquisite pleasure of writing about it afterwards.
Ras Dashen provides me with splendid succour.
121 Nicholson St last made an appearance in the guise of the nice but short-lived Baraka Restaurant.
Somalian food has given way to Ethiopian, with Ras Dashen – I’m told it means “mountain” – having been open about seven months.
It seems like less time than that I’ve been aware of the change, but time is flying.
There’s new furnishings and I feel right at home in the bright, cheerful ethnic cafe atmosphere.
The smiling, gentle and hospitable welcome I receive for Monday lunch is as important as the food.
The menu has many of the usual suspects – tibs, foul, “khey wot”, kitfo – but I know what I want.
I want soup.
Is there soup?
“What kind is it?”
“That’s what I want.”
I am offered a choice of bread or injera.
In the interests of maximum comfort factor, I choose the latter.
My soup ($10) arrives with one each of regular and wholemeal injera, along with a little bowl of chilli paste.
I’m often surprised that in all the coverage Melbourne’s African eateries receive there is so little mention of the soups that are available – based on our experiences, they’re certainly among the high points.
And this is an excellent one.
If you were to judge it on the vegetables – carrot, onion, celery and more – you’d be excused for thinking it not much different from a Western-style meat/vegetable broth.
But the result here is unmistakably African.
It’s there in the peppery tanginess and the random slices of fresh green chilli.
It’s there in the heady, intense and flavoursome broth that soaks up the injera so well.
My soup bowl has four bits of beef rib, with some meat sticking to them and more juicy, tender morsels doing magical stuff independently.
There’s just the right amount of meat to provide hearty fare without seeming like too much of a Monday midday carnivore.
This all makes the world seem like a much less threatening place as I go about my business.