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.
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.
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!
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.
“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.