Saba’s Ethiopian Restaurant, 328 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy. Phone: 8589 0442
Of the foodie friends we break bread with, Marketa and Nick are two lovely folks whom we see too little of.
So I am only to happy to agree to a proposal to join them at a new Ethiopian eatery … in Fiztroy.
Turns out that Marketa and the Saba after whom the restaurant is named know each other from another place – a gym!
For Marketa, this will a first try of Ethiopian tucker; not so for Nick, though his single encounter is just a fading memory.
But even for me, veteran of so much western suburbs Ethiopian food, there will be something new.
As recounted in this story about Lemat Injera Bakery, for most of the Ethiopian community’s time in Australia, the grain from which injera is made – teff – was not allowed to be imported.
So the injera makers – as cultures have done through the ages – experimented and adapted, using a mix of grains, until they created something like, well, injera.
Those import restrictions have been lifted now but as far as I know this will be my first ever encounter with teff injera.
I arrive early so have time to talk with Saba and her staff about injera and Ethopian food in Melbourne.
The eatery – smack dab in the middle of Brunswick Street’s hipster heaven – is bright and light and the staff do a fine job.
As we’re enjoying our meal, people are being turned away.
Seems like Saba’s is going to fit right in in Fitzroy!
But Fitzroy isn’t Footscray so I have been bracing myself for prices way above what I’d pay for similar food much closer to home.
So, upon perusal of the menu (see below), I am pleasantly surprised.
Yes, the prices are above what we all pay on Nicholson Street or thereabouts – but not ridiculously so.
I’m happy to be in the house and catching up with my friends.
Other differences between Saba’s and the western suburbs Ethiopian eateries are the names of the dishes.
I don’t get around to asking Saba why this is so – but can tell, reading between the lines of the dish descriptions, that I am going to be eating in familiar territory.
Saba places a restraining hand on our eagerness in terms of ordering too much.
So what we end up with is a splendid Ethiopian meal of one meat dish, one pulse offering and two vegetable dishes.
It’s all very good, including the carrots-cabbage-spuds of dinish ($16) and the “side dish” beetroot, here called key sir ($12).
Our meat selection, keyih sebhi ($23.50) is a wonderfully rich, deep red stew of lamb with just the right chilli kick.
It’s almost like an Ethiopian bolognese!
As for injera made from teff, I can honestly say that I didn’t notice much difference – maybe this injera was a bit plumper.