Deli Afro Restaurant, 331 Racecourse Road, Kensington. Phone: 9994 7229
The Racecourse Road strip – already happily packed with a plethora of food choices – is these days home to seven African eateries.
That’s right – seven.
But Consider The Sauce aside, you won’t be seeing this celebrated elsewhere.
This is for the simple reason that, with a couple of exceptions, these mostly Somalian cafes lack – sometimes rather spectacularly – the sort of photogenic vibe and high degree of chic and/or hipster ambience that would make them of interest to the greater part of Melbourne’s foodie media.
Ranging from the metro newspapers through to the likes of Broadsheet and Timeout through to most of our city’s bloggers, that a place being covered has some sort of “look” seems as important – and often even more important – than terrific food made by beautiful people.
Look, CTS is not at all averse to eating and dining in pleasant, attractive, sexy surrounds.
But that comes a poor third in our world when compared with that sort of food and those sorts of people.
As it is, Deli Afro is rather more restaurant-like than some of its near neighbours.
Over several visits now, I have been welcomed, had food questions happily answered and generally had an all-round great time.
And the food is tremendous and very cheap.
No matter what you order here (see menu below), you will be served soup – one of the benchmarks of such places.
The Deli Afro version is a veritable nectar of the gods.
Unlike most, this has no vegetable pieces or strands of stock meat – it’s simply a lip-smackingly awesome, tangy, lemony, spicy broth.
The other benchmark, for me, of such fine cafes is the rice.
The rice that comes with my lamb ($15, top photo) is likewise perfect.
Every grain glistens, with just the right amount of diced veg, onion and sultanas included.
With this kind of cooked-in-stock rice, one word automatically comes to my mind – inhale.
The generous serve of lamb is very good, too, and I continue to be wowed how north-east African cooks do so much, albeit very simply, with humble barbecue chops.
I am also provided a side plate of greens and stewed, finely diced beef, along with a zippy chilli sauce.
The overcooked greens are the sort of thing I reckon warrants comparison with the side dishes associated with the “soul food” of the US.
On another visit to Deli Afro, it is CTS pal Marnes who goes the meat-and-rice route while I happily explore another aspect of Somalian food – pasta.
These noodles are so much fun and beaut to eat, especially with liberal dosings of the chilli condiment.
There’s minced beef in there, but it is a very dry dish – it’s like a dry, jumbly bolognese.
I normally steer away from fish in your more humble-but-friendly ethnic cafes, fearing a serve of bony and/or trashy fish such as tilapia or basa.
At Deli Afro, by contrast, I get a handsome chunk of salmon – how about that, and also at $15 with the pasta?
It looks like it’s been blackened in the New Orelans tradition, but – no – it is as simply cooked as our lamb.
It is way overcooked by the norms most of us associate with this fish, but not ruinously so.
I enjoy it a lot.
Our Friday night dinner gets the full Somalian treatment through provision of a banana each to eat with our meal and then milky chai-style tea spiced with ginger and other spices.