EAHA/Kokeb/CTS party – the wrap

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EAHA/Kokeb/CTS fund-raising party for Eritrean kids, Kokeb Restaurant & Cafe, 247 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 9689 0157

Tuesday, July 22.

 

It was an evening to raise funds to support the work of Eritrean Australian Humanitarian Aid.

It was held at Kokeb Restaurant & Cafe in Footscray.

It was beaut!

Thanks go to many people …

 

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Thanks to everyone who supported the event through their credit cards and their presence.

Thanks to the Kokeb family – Helen, Melaku, Naeb … and, most particularly, thanks to Demet, who spent the whole day cooking the wonderful food we enjoyed so much!

 

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Thanks to Louise and Noray from EAHA for telling us about Eritrea and the group’s work.

Thanks to the rest of EAHA gang – Wafa, Namarek, Aziza and Amira – for providing smiles, great ginger-infused Eritrean coffee and popcorn, dates and sweet cake hombasha to go with it.

Thanks to Nat Stockley for his as-always fantastic pics. He really saved me. Maybe it’s time to face reality – that hosting these events AND taking good blog pics is too much of a stretch!

Thanks to Matt from Westgate Party Hire for providing the serving platters free of charge.

 

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What we enjoyed food-wise:

 Yebeg wat: Freshly made beef stew served with injera.

Doro wat: Chicken drumsticks slow cooked in dense stew of onions, berbere and Ethiopian butter. Boiled eggs are knife-poked and simmered in the stew. A high holiday treat in Ethiopia.

Misir wat: Split lentils stewed with onion, garlic and a blend of Ethiopian herbs.

 

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Alecha: Potatoes, carrot and split peas cooked in onion, garlic and olive oil. A mild dish with a touch of turmeric and a subtle blend of herbs and spices.

Salad, injera.

$1000 has been deposited in the EAHA bank account.

Thanks!

 

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Great food + good company = help for Eritrean kids

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7.24pm, Monday, July 21: There is a single ticket left!

To book for this event, go HERE.

A FUND-RAISING PARTY FOR ERITREAN AUSTRALIAN HUMANITARIAN AID, HOSTED BY CONSIDER THE SAUCE AND KOBEB RESTAURANT & CAFE

Putting aside for a moment the regular Consider The Sauce Feast activity, we will instead host a wonderful fund-raising party on Tuesday, July 22.

This is a lovely story of how one thing can lead to another and another with winning results.

A few months back, while attending the African festival in Footscray, I spied a poster for an event being held at the Flemington Community Centre in Mount Alexander Road that very night.

It was a a fund-raising dinner for a charity called Eritrean Australian Humanitarian Aid (EAHA).

So I fronted and paid my $30 with visions of a second injera meal for the day and other whoop-de-doo swirling in my head.

I got to have my (very nice) meal and, beforehand, some explosively good Eritrean-style coffee – rich, thick, sweet and heavily spiced with ginger.

I did, though, have to get to grips with the fact that there was to be some serious business and speechifying.

But as I listened and watched the slide presentation, I found myself being inspired by the work EAHA does in supporting Eritrean kids in refugee camps in Sudan. (Think about that for a minute …)

So I introduced myself to the EAHA operatives Louise and Anwar, who had done the speechifying, and offered the services of Consider The Sauce for a fund-raising bash.

This is a small, grassroots charity it is easy to admire – there are no middlemen, there is no “administrative leakage”. Virtually all the funds they raise go straight to those kids in Sudan.

Read more about EAHA here or on the group’s Facebook page here.

From the there it was a simple matter of finding a venue.

So I returned to Kobeb in Barkly Street.

There I soon discovered Helen and Melaku were up for it – and also that Helen is Eritrean and was brought up in New Zealand.

It all fits!

The Kokeb crew will prepare a feast of goodies to be eaten with injera and enjoyed with good company – all for a measly $30.

There is a maximum capacity of 45 people for this event.

Kobeb will be reimbursed for the grocery shopping but apart from that and the TryBooking fees, all the money raised will go to EAHA and thence to those Eritrean kids.

Says Louise: “EAHA is excited to be joining Kenny and Kobeb in this feast and fundraising evening! Not only will it be great food, it will also help us raise money to finish building a primary school at an Eritrean refugee camp in Sudan. As we see it, it’s a win-win situation; people get to taste some of the fabulous cuisine from Ethiopia/Eritrea and raise money for a good cause at the same time!

“100 percent of money that EAHA raises goes directly towards projects benefiting Eritrean refugees. EAHA is run by volunteers, most of whom have direct connections to the area in Sudan where most Eritrean refugees have been living for decades. EAHA is completely committed to helping the community there and ensuring that every dollar raised is spent to the greatest effect.”

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EAHA/Condsider The Sauce/Kokeb Party,

Kokeb Restaurant & Cafe, 247 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 9689 0157

Tuesday, July 22, from 7pm to 9.30pm (approx).

Soft drinks free, alcohol to paid for separately.

To book for this event, go HERE.

African flavour blast in Moonee ponds

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Shebelle Ethiopian Restaurant & Cafe, 33 Holmes Road, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 0403 338 836

Holmes Road is the continuation of Puckle Street on the other side of the railway line.

It’s a curiously undistinguished strip of shops and assorted businesses.

Shebelle, for instance, resides right next door to a pole-dancing instruction palace.

Never mind all that – Shebelle is here to give not just the immediate neighbourhood but also the Puckle Street precinct a hefty infusion of great colour, taste, flavour and friendly service.

Shebelle once resided with other Ethiopian eateries in Barkly Street, Footscray.

It’s been open in Moonee Ponds for about a week and I join Nat and his colleague, Tim, there for a terrific lunch.

We are offered right off freshly roasted and brewed Ethiopian coffee, but opt for post-meal caffeine.

The menu (see below) is longish and appears to have most of the regular Ethiopian bases covered.

But there are also more unusual touches and some Moroccan influences.

Much to ponder and check out on repeat visits.

How utterly gorgeous, for instance, might be a north African version of  “chicken satay sticks” – described as “Moroccan style marinated with harissa and clarified butter, garlic, olive oil” with a choice of injera or bread?

We all head elsewhere on the menu and are very happy with our choices.

 

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My “Harirra Soup”, served with house-made injera, is a lot more robust and tasty than it looks in this photograph.

It has the sort of tang we adore being provided in the soup at Safari in Ascot Vale.

But this version has more vegetables, making it a little like an African minestrone; the lamb bits are flecks rather than chunks.

And there’s a heap of small, delicate brown lentils, making it also like the sort of rich lentil soup that comes from all over the Middle East and parts of Europe.

 

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Upon the arrival Tim’s “Moroccan lamb meatballs” ($15), Nat and I are envious.

The four chunky, big and beautifully seasoned meatballs are served in an intensely tomatoey sauce that has a nice chilli whack – whether from harissa or chilli powder, we know not.

Accompanying is a densely packed couscous.

Wow – great dish!

 

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Nat and I, both being more used to “tibs” dishes that are dry, are surprised by the appearance of his lamb tibs ($12).

Hewan explains to us that tibs are dry when served with injera, but in more of a soup/stew configuration when with served with rice, as Nat has chosen.

In any case, his dish is another goodie, with fine, chewy lamb and fresh green chilli slices.

 

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“Ethiopian style salad” ($8) is a just-right mix of very fresh greens, tomato, onion and more green chilli. When I get this sort of simple yet classy, zingy salad at African joints, it makes me think they could teach many cafes a thing or three about how it should be done.

Before departing, we do take up the offer from Hewan and Etsegent of a small cup each of their delicious, sweet Ethiopian coffee.

We wish Shebelle and its crew all the very best in their new location – and hope the locals learn to appreciate what a gem is in their midst.

Shebelle Ethiopian Restaurant & Cafe on Urbanspoon

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A West African adventure in Sunshine

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Foodafric, 24 City Place, Sunshine. Phone: 0413 168 759

Foodafric is situated on City Place, just few doors from Dragon Express.

Like all the other African businesses hereabouts, it’s nature is West African.

The signage outside is subtitled “Flavours of African & South American Cuisine”, the latter part of that phrase referring to some former South American employees of the place – and thus those words are scheduled for removal to avoid confusion.

The West African aspect refers mostly to Nigeria but also to countries such as Liberia.

Today I am mostly restricted to the half-dozen or so stews arrayed in the bain marie at the front, but I am told a much more comprehensive menu is on the way.

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Jollof rice is wonderful – of medium-high spiciness, semi-moist and laced with peas and onion.

The tomato-based stew that comes with it is sticky, good and has two biggish pieces of goat meat embedded in it.

They’re bone-free and quite tough – though nothing to phase me at all.

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When Bennie and I had dropped by a few days previously to scope the place out, it was the sight of a customer’s serve of okra stew that had me vowing to return at the earliest possible opportunity.

After all, I’m ostensibly an okra fan and what I had seen looked just like a very good variation of gumbo.

However, the side serve of stew I am served with my meal doesn’t work for me at all.

Look, I know there’s a slime factor with okra – but this is SLIMEY! And fishy, too …

The staff member who has been serving me, Bukka, laughs when I tell her this, saying: “We like it that way … and the okra is fried so it becomes even more like that.”

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She’s been patient and good-humoured in answering my questions, but is no doubt happy to hand that particular baton over to her boss, Nda, who also happens to be her brother.

He tells me his idea with the restaurant is to offer home-style Nigerian and West African cooking with a certain amount of tweaking, including with presentation, to make it more acceptable to Western palates.

He tells me that, yes, there is a certain kind of smoked fish, chopped finely, used in the okra stew and some of the place’s other dishes.

And he confirms the full menu should be up and running in a month or so.

Among the dishes and food on offer will be (links are to Wikipedia entries):

I’ve had a nice lunch, with one mis-step, but am happy to consider it research and a foretaste of more interesting things to come from this welcome and welcoming addition to the African options available in Melbourne’s western suburbs.

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Sudanese for Sunshine, French bakery for Footscray

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We’ve been a little puzzled in the past year or so that Footscray should be so richly endowed with African eateries yet Sunshine and st Albans with so few.

Well happily that situation will improve, in Sunshine at least, when Home Town at 231 Hampshire Road opens.

Even better, from a diversity point of view, the food will be Sudanese rather than Ethiopian.

Well, nominally Sudanese that is.

As proprietor Shafie tells me as we examine the walled menu, there is food from “all over” in a typically North African smorgasbord.

There’s African staples galore, such as foul and malokhai, but there’s also an Italian vibe through pasta such as lasagna, along with falafel, mixed grill, kofta and spiced prawns.

Going by the posted pricing and the warmth and friendliness with which Shafie greets my inquiries, I’m eagerly awaiting the opening.

And who does the cooking – Shafie or his missus?

“My wife – she’s very good!” Shafie tells me with a smile.

Opening day is a few weeks away.

(See menu pics below …)

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Meanwhile, a reader tip on the Facebook page of Footscray Food Blog has me scoping out the corner property opposite Footscray post office.

Wow – how about that?

I have a strong hunch the French part of this equation will be of the “France via Vietnam” variety.

I wonder what they’ll be doing – banh mi on steroids, coffee, bubble tea and other Asian drinks?

Peering through one of the papered-over windows, what I see of the fit-out looks big and classy.

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Feasting in Footscray media launch

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Council communications officer Georgie explains injera to some newbies.

Feasting in Footscray media launch @ Konjo Cafe & Restaurant, 89 Irving St, Footscray. Phone: 9689 8185

It’s a little odd to find that my first experience of an Ethiopian coffee ritual is part of a media-laden photo op.

But that’s OK – I enjoy learning about the history and traditions of Ethiopian coffee, and the significance of the various accoutrements, anyway.

Deputy mayor Grant Miles gives a speech.

So does food writer Allan Campion.

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While all that is going on, Misra is in the rear room getting the Ethiopian food ready for the guests.

The launch is based around the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival event Cultural Blend: The Origins of Coffee and Ethiopian Spices.

But there are several other Footscray events in the festival that are likewise either cheap or free – check them out here.

The food laid on by the Konjo folks is sensational – fresh, diverse, incredibly tasty.

Included are two dishes I’ve never before come across – one made of kale, another of beetroot.

Some guests dabble; some don’t bother at all.

Seeing as it’s clear some of this great stuff is going to go uneaten, I have no hesitation in making a freeloading pig of myself.

Makes me wonder why CTS has enjoyed just a single, solitary meal here previously!

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Ms Baklover in paparazzi mode.

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If you’re going to a be a reporter for The Star, you may as well wear Star Shoes! (Hi Charlene!)

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Bulsho Cafe

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Bulsho Cafe, 303 Racecourse Road,  Kensington. Phone: 9372 3557

In this case, the food and – presumably – the clientele is Somalian.

But individual differences and quirks aside, Bulsho Cafe could be Italian.

Or Polish or Croatian or Chinese or other African or Turkish or Vietnamese.

In its own way, it epitomises what I think of as “working men’s cafes”.

Or, more accurately, community hubs, hang-out joints and coffee stops for men, whether they be working or not.

You’ll rarely see women in such places.

You’ll rarely see them blogged or on Urbanspoon, either.

If they serve food – and it’s a big if – there’ll likely be no printed menu; just a hand-scrawled list, if that.

You’re mostly required to ask.

Such places can be quite daunting, but I’ve found often enough that perseverance and friendly inquiries can lead to fine food done dirt cheap and served with a welcoming smile.

My Sunday lunchtime experience at Bulsho, right next door to Flemington Kebab House, mirrors those experiences – and I’m eventually glad I hang in there.

Upon I entering, I see just a single customer, who is eventually joined by a mate, and no staff anywhere.

I hear sounds of activity emanating from the rear of the premises, but there’s no bell or other way of alerting the staff to the presence of willing customer.

I wait a few minutes and a few minutes more before deciding to split. That’s the way it goes at these sorts of places sometimes.

But as I am in the process of departing, I actually cop an eyeful of what the solitary customer is eating.

“Gosh,” methinks. “That looks good.”

So good, in fact, that I summon up some more perseverance by directing a robust, “Hello!” to the so-far unseen staff.

I am rewarded by a smiling young chap who is only happy to help ease my lunchtime fervour.

From there the process is easy …

“I want what he’s having,” I declare, gesturing towards the other customer.

It’s lamb curry with rice ($13).

Except, it’s not a curry at all. Or not in the way it’s generally understood.

Instead, it’s a lamb pieces on the bone – mostly shank, I think – in a clear broth of the same fashion as served by Safari in Ascot Vale or Ras Dashen in Footscray.

If the soup isn’t quite of the same spicy, piquant succulence as found in those two fine establishments, it’s good enough nonetheless.

Somewhat unexpectedly, given the nature of the meal and my previous experiences with similar feeds, the meat itself is quite different from the fall-from-the-bone kind I am expecting.

The meat is pleasantly chewy, comes from the bones easily enough with just a little effort and is ace in its own way. And there’s plenty of it.

A small pot of mild curry gravy is brought to my table after the rest of my meal, lubricating things nicely.

But the monarch of my meal is the plentiful rice – done in a way I am familiar with from other Somalian eateries, but here strongly perfumed with cardamom, cloves and cinnamon.

Not for the first time, I have been handed a lesson – that good food in the west can sometimes require a bit more chutzpah than merely walking in, grabbing a  menu and ordering.

And I think that’s a fine thing.

I would really love to hear other food hounds’ experiences – good, bad, indifferent, puzzling, frustrating, whatever – at such places as Bulsho.

There’s plenty of them, that’s for sure.

Yet they’re a part of our cultural and food landscape that goes largely unremarked.

As for women being rarely seen in them, I reckon that’s just an entrenched tradition – one I’d like to think is not based on any religious or cultural dogmas or taboos, such is the surprised delight I’ve invariably come across whenever I’ve chosen to make the effort.

Bulsho Cafe on Urbanspoon

Konjo Cafe & Restaurant

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Konjo Cafe & Restaurant, 89 Irving St, Footscray. Phone: 9689 8185

It’s a passing mention of Konjo Cafe at Footscray Food Blog that has seemingly and subconsciously steered me to Irving St, despite having pleasantly meandered along many streets and alleyways since parking at the market a half an hour before.

I’m very happy to find it open for business at lunchtime on a Monday, despite the upheaval presented by the heavy-duty roadworks currently underway right outside.

I’d popped in once a few months previously, so am used to the idea a limited menu may be available – the handful of dishes jotted down on a small blackboard doesn’t phase me.

From that list I choose lamb kai wot, which is described as “spicy lamb stew simmered in berbere”.

I soon discover the blackboard choices are mere suggestions and that the full menu – see below – is available.

The menu seems to have all the usual Ethiopian bases covered, with all but one dish selling for $12 – at the end of 2012, that seems like really good value.

No matter, I’m happy with my choice – especially once my request for a little salad on the side is granted.

That turns out to be the zingy jumble of cos lettuce, tomato and green chilli slices I was hoping for.

The kai wot is only mildly spicy but the gravy is rich, quite oily/buttery and delicious; the lamb is in small pieces and plentiful.

A single piece of injera suffices, and I even leave a little of the kai wot – it’s a serve that should really be shared between two diners in tandem with a vegetable dish or salad proper.

My cool lunch matches the cool cafe vibe here – the furniture is dark wood, the tables long-legged to match the stools. There is seating of a more traditional-style in a rear room.

The service is warm and obliging. The volume of the sweet African music is just right, too.

I’m told the roadworks are as much a pain because of the dust and noise as they are for deterring customers.

Still, no doubt just like the other restaurants and businesses on this stretch of Irving St, they’ll be very happy when the work is completed.

Flat-screen TVs: No.

Konjo Cafe & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Ras Dashen

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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?

“Yes.”

“What kind is it?”

“Beef rib.”

“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.

Ras Dashen on Urbanspoon

Safari Restaurant

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Safari Restaurant, 159 Union Rd, Ascot Vale. Phone: 9372 7175

It’s been far too long since we’ve sailed in the Safari – certainly at least since our early review of this fine Somalian eatery.

So long, in fact, we’re not even sure if it’ll be functioning as we remember on this Friday night with appetites inspired by some overdue winter outfitting.

The Consider The Sauce boys have been shopping and are hungry.

Happily, as we enter we discover everything is as we remember it. Indeed, the place seems busier than was the case on any of our previous visits.

The menu, however, seems to have been streamlined somewhat, but as we soon learn – to our complete and joyful satisfaction – the food is the same and just as good as ever.

We toy with idea of ordering Big Mandy Rice For Two ($32), but this is described to us in terms of being good for big fellas, very hungry.

So we back off and discover there’s a menu item just made for us – The Regular ($13).

This consists of a plate of Mandy Rice and your choice of lamb, beef, chicken steak or fish.

As on previous visits, our bowls of their incredible meat soup are brought before we’ve even placed our order proper.

This is a broth of lip-smacking sensations – spicy, heady with meatiness yet light on meat itself.

It’s simply wonderful.

Bennie’s chicken steak – hidden under a tasty array of grilled sautéed carrot, capsicum and onion – is more plentiful than it looks. The chicken meat is tending towards dryness but falls short enough of that to pass for tender, and has a wonderful charred-like flavour.

I like his chicken, he digs my lamb.

The sheep meat has form and structure yet is far from chewy and falls easily from the bones.

In both our cases, the rice is splendid – cooked in stock, spiced, every grain glistening.

As ever, our meals are helped along by long, tall glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice clinking with ice cubes.

Killer soup, terrific meat, sensational rice, just the right kind of vegetable accompaniment, freshly squeezed juice … $13.

This is a fantastic bargain.

The service here is friendly but efficient.

We can’t recommend Safari highly enough to anyone hankering for African eating a bit different from Footscray’s mostly Ethiopian fare.

Safari on Urbanspoon

Walia Ibex

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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.

Africa Taste

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124 Victoria St, Seddon. Phone: 9687 0560

It’s something of a shock to realise how long it’s been since we went African.

We’ve been pleasantly distracted – Indian, Asian, kebabs and all sorts of other stuff.

Nor have we got around to enjoying Africa taste and blogging on it, despite the fact we were regulars even before CTS lumbered into their cyber air.

So tonight’s the night.

The place has undergone some natty renovations. The kitchen has been moved further to the rear of the building. There’s a bigger counter area and more room for hungry folks, though Africa taste remains comfy rather than roomy.

Sadly, it seems the days of us waltzing up any old time we like and grabbing a table are gone.

Even on this Monday night we are lucky to grab an unbooked early table.

We presume this is to do with the booking of two separate birthday groups, but later learn this is pretty much a standard situation on any night of the week.

It seems bookings are the go here now, not that we resent any success Africa taste has earned.

We love the food, the points of difference from Footscray’s African eateries and the fact it’s closer to our home base. The relaxed charm seems to have faded away a little, but we can live with that.

Our standard order on most of many previous visits has been chicken or lamb tibes and the Africa Taste salad – a magnificent jumble of leaves, tomato, cucumber, onion and crunchy spiced pita bits.

Tonight, at dad’s insistence, we venture further afield.

We’ve been a bit wary of some menu items previously, fearing an uncomfortable level of stodginess.

We are delighted to proven so wrong by the  Genfo African Fufu (Gnocchi, $10.95).

The gnocchi of toasted barley flour are plain yet delicious. Some of them have a little crunch, though there is little or none of the chilli mentioned on the menu. Instead there is a rich brown gravy and a big dab of cream.

It’s much more filling than it looks, and we are glad we went without the $5 option of extras such as chicken, lamb or fish.

Bennie, extremely fishily ambivalent as he is, is somewhat unimpressed by the inclusion of Spicy Fish Tibes ($13.50) in our order.

But even he, injera in hand, likes the viscous and spinach-infused gravy that is very garlicky and, like the gnocchi, lacking much of a spice bite despite the menu description and the clearly visible red flecks.

His dad loves the many and generous chunks of butterfish that are tender and mild of flavour.

It’s a fine meal and a bargain at $24.45.

And it’s swell knowing there are still several dishes on the menu that await exploration by us.

But we know now that future visits will require a little more premeditation than has been our impromptu habit.

African Taste on Urbanspoon

Addis Abeba

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220 Nicholson St, Footscray. Phone: 9041 2994

Our normal early-in-the-week routine is all business – work, school homework, commuting and homecooked meals.

This week we break out for a Tuesday night foray.

It’s the bitingly cold start of a nasty cold snap, so the whole exercise could be deemed silly, but happily our first port of call is open.

Addis Abeba is a relatively new kid on the block in Footrscray’s collection of Ethiopian eateries, situated on a stretch of Nicholson St known for the presence of a venerable old stager of an Indian restaurant, the Taj.

The restaurant is done out nicely in a tranquil sort of green, the walls adorned with art work, photos and posters.

We’re the only customers and naturally gravitate to the table nearest to the glowing heater.

Dad’s happy to go vego, but the boy wants meat.

It seems the days of us ordering only a salad and tibs at Ethiopian places are gone – the staff advise us that, no, that won’t be enough. I shouldn’t be surprised – Bennie’s a 10-year-old rugby player whose appetite is expanding.

We order salad ($6), beef tibs ($12) and lamb key wet (wot, also $12).

At first blush, the tibs look a little pale and pallid – there’s little by way of seasoning or gravy. But Bennie loves  ‘em, especially the onion strands.

The key wot is the hit of the night – nice lamb pieces swimming in an incredibly rich and oily/buttery dark red-brown gravy with that distinctive flavour of berbere spice mix prominent. The chilli hit seems to become greater as the meal goes on, but presents no problems for us

The salad is the usual jumble of leaves, capsicum, onion, green chilli and tomato. It’s very wet with a lemony dressing, but we like it a lot.

We eat almost all that is before us, including the injera on the serving platter and the extras on the side.

On an earlier visit on my ownsome, I’d had kikil – described as “lamb stew with special sauce sauted with onion and garlic”, it was actually a typically flavoursome broth, in which was submerged a meaty lamb bone. It was delicious, though $12 seemed a little pricey for a bowl of soup. It was beaut, however, to use injera with soup – the sponge-like texture, unsurprisingly, was just right for the job.

Based on our experiences to this point, Addis Abeba presents a fairly typical Ethiopian fare very capably, if without really knocking us out. Yet.

I’m keen to return to try the non-meat combo of pulses two ways and various vegetable dishes. It’s priced at $12, $15 with salad, $26 for two and $40 for three, which seems fair and sensible.

For breakfast there are the likes of foul ($8) and scrambled eggs ($7).

All other things being equal, Addis Abeba is likely to find long-term favour with us for being slightly removed from Footscray’s African hub, hopefully easing the car-park situation.

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Awash

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Shop 2, 46-82 Hopkins St, Footscray. Phone: 9687 1955

We don’t mean to celebrate the frequently wicked ways of the world, but we feel blessed nonetheless to be able to enjoy the diversity and flavours varied African tribes have bestowed on Melbourne’s west.

Only problem is, some of the nicer and more appealing places these days have pricing that marks them – for us – as likely venues for a night out and/or special occasion.

Not that the prices are in any way exorbitant – especially in contrast to “proper” restaurants of the classier category.

Adulis, for instance, is calling to us – particularly after a full-blooded endorsement by Ms Baklover at Footscray Food Blog.

But the prices are such that we’re saving that experience for a windfall day or something similar.

And that’s why we headed right next door, to Awash, for a cheap and cheerful Saturday lunch.

I’d dropped in the previous week and had been mightily impressed with the mixed non-meat sampler ($12).

This time around, though, Bennie as adamant: “I want meat!”


So after discussing the non-meat option with the staff, we ordered the meaty pea stew ($10) and a side salad ($5).

A little while later we were presented with … the non-meat sampler.

Oops! Communication breakdown among the staff!

To their credit, they repeatedly offered to replace our meal with the food we had actually ordered.

However, I was equally adamant that we’d make do with what had arrived. After all, the food had already been placed on the injera, so presumably would go to waste if we sent it back. No way!

And so it went.

Bennie overcame his disappointment at his non-meaty repast, and joined me in devouring the lot with glee.

There were pulses three ways – brown lentils and yellow split peas rather plain, and another lentil brew a rich dark red with just the right kind of chilli kick; all good.

The vegetables consisted of the familiar cabbage/carrot mix and a serve of the likewise familiar silverbeet concoction; all also good.

A bonus of going the non-meat route in an Ethiopian eatery is that the food uses enough oil/butter to get the job done, but falls way short of the very high levels found in many of the meat dishes.


I’m also often impressed with just how good the salads are at a great number of Footscray’s African restaurants. Usually there’s nothing whiz-bang involved – just incredibly fresh vegetables beautifully presented and anointed with a lemony dressing.

The Awash salad was a good one that upheld that tradition.

There was nothing remotely spectacular about our food – it was plain, but also wholesome and tasty. And at $17 for two, truly sharp on the pricing – a bargain, in fact, that required no troubling mental maths or hesitation.

Moreover, such was the warmth of the service – and the upfront and happy manner in which the ordering contretemps was handled – that we are looking forward to returning for the likes of their doro wat or tibs.

I remember the first time I tried injera – and found the rubbery clamminess of it rather unappealing.

All ancient history these days – injera has become just as commonplace, delightful and essential as a bowl of pho!

As we ambled over the road to Footscray Market, Bennie opined: “That was a mistake – but it was a good mistake!”

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Safari Restaurant

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159 Union Rd, Ascot Vale. Phone: 9372 7175

Yes, another gem in Union Rd – this one just as tasty, affordable and, in its own mesmerising way, just as exotic as Yemini Restaurant up the road a piece.

Like that joint, Safari Restaurant’s stock in trade is a roll call of meat, veg and carbs.

As such it seems an ideal place for those who find the very idea of tibs, doro wat, injera and other items bought to Melbourne’s inner west by the African diaspora a step too far or just too weird to even contemplate eating.

Describing Safari’s food as “meat and three veg”, though, does it a grave disservice – for this Somalian fare is much, much more delicious than that humble label implies.

Bennie and I have been regular visitors this year, but for my most recent lunch I was joined by my fellow DeadHead Kurt.

There was a little confusion while ordering, so we ended up both getting the $17 meal of lamb (hilib, on the bone, three pieces), rice (barris) and accompaniments.

This was overload for lunch, so it’s helpful to know that there’s a $15 version available, with the rice and meat coming on the same plate, and the same side dishes and vegetables provided.

But even at $17, our lunches fully qualified for a hearty western suburbs cheap eats thumbs up.

You see, at Safari meals come with what, in New Orleans and South Louisiana, is referred to as “lagniappe” – that is, “a little something special”.

In this case, that involves, first up, a long, cool drink – either freshly squeezed orange juice clinking with ice cubes, or a much sweeter and richer milk-based concoction that I personally find too cloying.

Second comes a bowl of soup.

Bowl of soup? That sounds miserable and woefully inaccurate to describe what is clearly the most delicious thing I’ve eaten this year thus far.

It’s a bowl of simple broth, yes – modestly seasoned with a little chili, coriander, lemon pepper and garlic. You may even find a few strands of meat, or the odd slice of carrot.

But at it’s heart this is simply, magnificently Essence Of Lamb As A Work Of Art.

Gosh, it’s good!

On to our main courses – and more magic.

The rice was plain, but brilliant –  seasoned, again with restraint, with garlic and coriander, and cooked in vegetable stock. Worthy of gleeful inhalation.

My three pieces of lamb, one of which was a cutlet, were tender, tasty and wonderfully free of fat and/or gristle  – not always the case with food such as this.

Completing the picture were some good salad greens and a goodly amount of a sensational pan-fried jumble of onion, carrot and capsicum, which was heaven with the rice and generous smears of the tangy chili sauce provided.

As a point of difference, Kurt split his carb order 50/50 between rice and spaghetti. The pasta was OK – but it was just pasta, and certainly not a patch on the divine rice.

After our wonderful lunch, we spent some time chatting to owner Mohamed Shide about his food, the restaurant, its multinational clientele and the story that brought him to Australia and, finally, his own eating shop in Ascot Vale.

It’s a long story that involves war, many years, separation from family and other trials and tribulations – the sort of moving odyssey that is so intrinsic to Australia.

So happy were we with our repast and our conversation with Mohamed that I gaily strolled away without paying. Happily, I also left my wallet on the counter, necessitating my return anyhow.

As I reclaimed my wallet and attempted to pay, Mohamed attempted to wave my money away – unsuccessfully.

Mohamed, my friend, that’s simply not what I’m about.

If by writing this I can can send a few more people through your door, that’ll be all the payment I could wish.

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