Veg Ethiopian makes our hearts sing

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Abol Africa, 221 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 7016 0886

We are three, we are headed for Footscray – and we are aiming to chow down on some ace Ethiopian tucker.

Ahhh, as it turns out, the restaurant we have in mind is unavailable to us.

So we do what we always do in such situations – we walk about half a block up the street and eat somewhere else.

It’s that easy – and ongoing testament to the sublime luxury of living so close to Footscray and a number of other westie suburbs with high food concentrations.


Actually, in this case, way more than mere yum and into realms of giddy delight.

It’s fair to say the Ethiopian we enjoy at Abol is as good as any we’ve consumed.

Abol African has been open about a month when we visit.

Boss man Abel tells me that prior to this he ran Jambo, just up the road apiece, for about seven years.

The menu at Abol African has a section devoted to fish dishes.

That aside, though, it is basically an out-and-out vegan place (see full menu below).

That’s fine by me – even if we’d paid more attention to the veg-inclined signage outside, I still would’ve insisted we eat here just out of curiosity.

And besides, it’s strongly embedded within me that on the occasion of countless previous Ethiopian meals, the meat dishes have been enjoyable but it’s been non-meat side things that has really been the heart and soul of the food.

The fare we enjoy at Abol Africa is emphatically in line with such ruminations.

It is spectacular.

We order one of four combo selections – the Hudade Special for two to three people at a cost $40 all up.


That turns out to be an extraordinary bargain!

One of the menu-listed dishes is missing from our platter, but we barely notice.

The rest are superbly cooked dishes, some familiar, some less so.

The lentil salad (azila), seen at centre, is zingy and brilliant.

The shiro wot (chick pea stew, far right) is a smooth delight.

The duba wot (pumpkin stew, far left) is fine, too, but me ‘n’ Bennie – being not pumpkin fans – mostly leave that to Veronica.

But it is all wonderful, all extremely delicious, with a highlight being the profoundly spuddy dinich wot (potato stew, top right).

And we get extra injera at no extra cost.

Before tucking into our main feast, we devour three sambusa ($3 each).

Again, these are state-of-the-art and as good as any we’ve experienced.

Crisp, ungreasy, beaut.

And, yes, despite the filling being an unmeaty mix of lentils, onion and spices.

Abel tells me he uses a mix of avocado, olive and mixed vegetable oils in his cooking.

It shows.

Look, we love/enjoy a good old doro wot swimming in oil/butter as much as anybody.

But the Abol Africa cookinge leaves us with an equally profound sense of having eaten well and healthily.

Abol Africa is a pleasant, bright space to spend some time – and there is a fine-looking and tabled garden/outdoor section out back.

Pure Sunshine


Ghion Restaurant & Cafe, 12 City Place, Sunshine. Phone: 0423 362 995

There’s no doubt the old Sunshine station – and its gloomy, even spooky tunnel/underpass through to City Place – deserved and needed to be replaced.

But given the new station edifice involves a much less direct and stair-heavy route, I wondered what impact the new station arrangements would have on City Place and the surrounding businesses and neighbourhood.

Surely, the curious would be much less inclined to venture to “the other side of the tracks” from Sunshine central and its much more numerous shops and eateries?

Well, yes – I guess so.

But something rather nice appears to be happening in the face of this enforced “separation”.

You see, it’s now possible to consider that City Place and the adjacent Sun Crescent constitute an entirely different neighbourhood.

Or even a different suburb – one with its own pace, space and vibe.

It’s very laid back, with none of the hustle and bustle of Sunshine proper.

I’d not go so far as to suggest this neighbourhood is prospering or constantly buzzing, but it does seem to be getting on with doing its own thing.

It’s tempting to describe the overall vibe as African, but that would be misleading.

There’s hairdressers/barbers, a cafe, groceries and an arts space.

The fine and long-term Chinese eatery Dragon Express remains in place, while around the corner on Sun Crescent is the utterly fabulous Panjali Banana Leaf Malaysian Restaurant, as well as a kebab shop, an Ethiopian place and a Sri Lankan outlet.

Back on City Place, Ghion is doing really good Ethiopian tucker and has become a regular haunt for those seeking a lightish casual lunch in a tranquil, relaxing setting.

I’m guessing it’s also on the ball come dinnertime.

The classic vegetarian combo yetsom beyaynetu is awesome here – as good as any I’ve tried.

Lentils/pulses three different ways; the familiar carrot/potato, beetroot and greens; sprightly salad – all beautifully cooked and presented, all in just the right quantities for a wonderfully balanced meal.

This winning offering costs a supremely cheap $12.

But if you visit Ghion on Wednesday – day or night – it’ll cost you a mere $10.

How good is that?

Among the various meat dishes, lega tibs ($13) is lovely.

It’s a tomato-based, zingy concoction with good lamb chunks and the onion providing nice crunch through being just the right side al dente.

Wait times at Ghion are spot on – long enough to bespeak much care in the kitchen, short enough to ward off hungry impatience.

Ethiopian in upper Barkly


GeBeta Cafe and Restaurant, 1/578 Barkly Street, West Footscray. Phone: 0432 523 921

The word GeBeta, Tamrat Achamyeleh tells us, is about Ethiopian food.

Not just the platters on which the stews and pan-fried goodies are served, nor the injera with which they are accompanied or the gathered hungry folks.

Nay, it is all of the above – a sort of “let’s all eat together” statement of purpose.

We’re totally down with that, especially when it comes to trying a brand new Ethiopian eatery in West Footscray.

That’s right – West Foostcray, rather than the more typically Ethio/African precincts of the singularly named Footscray near the other end of Barkly Street.

After sampling the GeBeta food, we reckon the locals around here will love supporting this colourful addition to their eating palette, one that is otherwise tilted towards Indian food – though not quite as much as is sometimes claimed.

GeBeta is being run by Tamrat Achamyeleh and Tiruzer Ahunem, whose food we enjoyed on many occasions at Ras Dashen on Nicholson Street.

We admire their smarts in moving up the road where there is much less competition of the Ethiopian variety.

None, actually.

The menu – see it at the place’s website here – features a line-up of reliable Ethiopian regulars.

We are in a meaty mood so share a lovely spread of doro w’et – “the national dish of Ethiopia” – and kh’ey tibs at $15 each.

The doro w’et is rich, oily and all delicious, its single chicken drumstick and hard-boiled egg quite sufficient in terms of heft.

The kh’ey tibs is light on the menu-nominated “berbere infused curry”, but is still very good, the just-cooked onions adding welcome crunch and texture.

All is abetted by a nice salad studded with green chilli slices.

GeBeta serves injera made with teff at the weekends, but the regular hybrid version at other times.

Tamrat tells us they hope in the future to have on the menu the beef bone soup we loved at their Footscray establishment.

At the moment, the restaurant is a cash-only proposition.

House of yum

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House of Injera, 227 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 9687 8644

Lucy Dinknesh is dead; long live Lucy Dinknesh.

The much-loved Ethiopian stalwart of the Footscray eats scene has closed its doors.

Doubtless that will leave a hole impossible to fill for its many fans.

But House of Injera – at the same address – is giving it a good shake.

Based on the mostly excellent food we eat during a mid-week visit – and the happy tables around us – House of Injera is destined to be a hit.

Even with otherwise inconsolable Lucy fans.

But this is a rather different enterprise.

It’s the first restaurant adventure for the team of Wes and Brod Jackson and Messe Berhe, with the latter (mum of Wes) doing all the cooking.



The dining room is a rather chic delight, with low-fi lighting (but still bright enough to see our food), plain yet fetching wooden tables, cushions scattered around and Ethiopian art work adorning the walls.

The pungent tang of incense and funky Ethiopian sounds – some even familiar to Bennie and I from my slim collection of Ethio music – are comfort-inducing in a swell way.

And a reminder to self to never, ever take for granted the happy miracle of the presence in our midst of the Ethiopian community – nor the presence of any other community.

What a wonderful world!

The House Of Injera menu (see below) is a simple, well-written list featuring many dishes with which we are familiar.

Though there are a few wrinkles along the way.

One is the inclusion of kikel seg, the meat and vegetable soup we adore, but see available at very few Ethiopian eateries.

We think of it as the Ethiopian take on pho or Jewish penicillin/chicken soup.

Another wrinkle is lamb ribs.

My choice is soup, but I let Carnivore Boy Bennie bully me into ordering the ribs.

We’re told lamb ribs are eaten in Ethiopia, but not when marinated as here.



Our lamb ribs ($15) look the part and constitute a generous serve compared to others we’ve had of the same meat cut elsewhere in the past few years.

There are five good-sized ribs involved.

Unfortunately, we find them to be extremely fatty – indeed, a couple seem sans meat and made up of fat and bone only.

It could be argued this all goes with lamb ribs territory, but buyer beware.

Much better are the tibbs-style lamb cubes, onion, carrot and their juices on which the ribs are presented.

Entirely delicious!



There are three combo deals to be had at House of Injera – the all-veg beyaynetu at $16 per person; the mistro, a mix of five meat and vegetable dishes, at $20 per person; and anbessa, the all-in line-up for $25 per person.

We order the mistro – and are knocked-out happy to find it includes a small bowl each of aforementioned kikel seg soup.

It is excellent – and there’s a heap of on-the-bone meat submerged in our bowls.



The rest of our mistro line-up includes wonderful renditions of khay wat, gomen sega and the familiar, always-welcome Ethio mix of beetroot and spuds.

The meat in the beef stew that is khay wat is cooked down and easy to eat.

The greens of gomen sega come with another wrinkle – more tender on-the-bone meat, which makes me recall the stew-meat greens that are staples of much cooking of the southern parts of the US.

We’re far from complaining, as there’s more food served to us than we can eat, but instead of five dishes as part of our mistro combo, we have been served four.

No problem at all – and our bill is adjusted accordingly.

Mentioning that – and the fatty ribs – is par for the CTS course and nothing less than our readers expect.

But in this case, it grieves me a little, as we really do love this place and we love our meal.

House of Injera is warmly CTS recommended.



Besides, it’s impossible to dislike a place that takes on board the hands-on nature of its food by providing facilities that include a basin into which hot water runs IMMEDIATELY and in which paper towels are on hand.

Check our the House Of Injera website here.


Memorable moments with Mietta’s mafia

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Amy, Gifta and Mietta.


Selam Authentic African Restaurant & Bar, 127 Nicholson Street, Footscray. Phone: 8383 2560
Small French Bar, 154 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 9687 8479

A few years ago, Mietta Gibson began what has become a family tradition.

Each year, as Christmas approaches, she takes the sisterhood portion of her family out on a surprise adventure.

One year it was a Middle Eastern cooking class, another it was gift-wrapping for a charity.

And on another occasion, the whole crew attended a filming session of The Project.

This year, she began plotting and scheming many months ago, with no firm ideas in mind other than “western suburbs” and “food”.

Mietta, you see, lives on the Mornington Peninsula, her entire family lives in the eastern suburbs and she was keen to expose them to some different aspects and perspectives of Melbourne.

She was not having much joy in terms of online research – until she stumbled upon Consider The Sauce.

(Frankly, given our substantial online footprint, I’m surprised it took her so long!)

Anyway, in mid-October I received an email with the header “Seeking your help”.

A few emails back and forth, and then we were happily chatting on the phone.

And just like that (sound of fingers snapping), the deal was done – Team Consider The Sauce would proudly show these gals our backyard and we’d all have an absolute blast!

And so it turned out …




As Mietta and her crew exit Footscray station, she has no trouble picking me out of the crowd; we meet up and make the whole round of introductions.

With her are her sisters Eliza and Natalie, her niece Matisse, her mum-in-law Kate and – all the way from France – her friend Iris.

What a happy, garrulous crew they are!

At this early point in our evening, no one involved except Mietta and myself have any idea about what is in store – the happy gasps and grins as our gameplan is explained to them are gratifying!

Then we’re off – first stop Littlefoot, Bennie and I explaining the familiar streets and places and faces as we go.





After “looseners” all round, we pretty much retrace our steps to Selam on Nicholson Street.

There we enjoy a truly fabulous Ethiopian meal.

Nothing edgy or unexpected, mind you – it’s simply beautifully cooked and presented Ethiopian tucker.

Lentils three different ways; terrific salad; cabbage and excellent greens (silverbeet, I think).

And in the centre of our two platters is the dry derek tibs of pan-friend lamb pieces – so good!

Best of all, though, and by general acclaim, is the lamb soup – which I foolishly forget to photograph.

This zingy lamb broth – a bit like an Ethiopian version of the standard Somalian offerings at such places as Deli Afro – is a sensation, each of our bowls liberally studded with wonderful bone-in lamb meat.




Mietta and her friends – for whom the western suburbs, Footscray AND Ethiopian food are all vivid new experiences – take to the Selam fare and non-cutlery eating with gusto and delight.

Truth be told, I chose Selam for our outing pretty much on a whim and because I liked the look of the place.

But chef/proprietor Amy has done us proud and the way she and daughter Gifti have looked after us has been superb.




The cost? Including all that terrific food, some wine, a few beers and sundry soft drinks – just under $20 per head.


But we’re not done yet … dessert is on the menu.

Actually, Footscray at 9pm on a week night is not particularly auspicious for dessert.

But before our evening began, I’d worded up Stefan at Small French Bar that we might descend upon his establishment later in the evening.




It’s a bustling, cheerful scene that greets us as we enter.

It’s crowded, but room is found for us.




Naturally, we ignore the savoury aspects of the menu.

We ignore, too, the sorbet option.

What we do order is three portions apiece of the other three desserts …




… fondant au chocolat …




… creme brulee …




… and profiteroles.

Gosh, they’re beaut – and we’ve ordered just the right amount for us all to have a good taste of each dish.

There is much happy sighing and clinking of spoons on crockery.




For Iris, who has been away from France for two months, this is all a profound treat.

She says the place even smells French!

What a truly memorable evening we’ve enjoyed.

There was something about the nutty randomness of Mietta’s original email approach to us that appealed enormously to CTS.

And that hunch has been vindicated.

We hope to see these folks over our way again!



Ethiopian … in Fitzroy?



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.





Wonderful Ethiopian




Ras Dashen, 121 Nicholson Street, Footscray. Phone: 9687 3293

A chance Sunday night encounter in the Yarraville IGA finds me dining out in downtown Footscray on a Tuesday night with friends and friends of theirs.

Ethiopian is the preference and Ras Dashen is my suggestion.

I’ve been here a couple of times by myself though not recently.

So I’m a little concerned about how we might go so early in the week with a table of five that includes two vegetarians.

I need not have fretted as what we receive is magnificent.

The beyaynetu veg selection is provided at an amazing $10 per head – so the wonderful spread pictured above costs us $50.

Two kinds of lentils – aspicy and rich red number and a yellowish dal-like mix.

A jumble of mixed vegetables, a bowl of delightful beetroot and a typically zingy salad.

It’s all delicious.

On the side, I order the fitifit or beef rib soup ($10) enjoyed on a previous visit.

If anything, if it seems bigger, more meaty and wonderful than before. The broth is pungent – it comes across a bit like an Ethiopian version of pho, but without the star anise and so on.

It’s my new Favourite Thing.

Finally, our table snags a serve of zilzil tibs ($12, sorry no pic usable!).

This is unlike any tibs dish I’ve previously encountered.

It’s very dry, with pan-fried beef strips that have been rubbed – and I’m pretty much guessing here – cumin, a little chilli, salt, pepper and garlic.

It, too, is excellent.

The service we have been given has been beaut and it’s been a fine thing to see a Footscray Ethiopian joint bustling with activity so early in the week..

An Ethiopian welcome to Footscray

Kokeb Restaurant & Cafe, 247 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 9689 0157
Snowtree, 119 Hopkins St, Footscray


Eliza was one of the many lovely and talented people with whom I worked at the Geelong Advertister.

IIRC, she left not too long after I did … to pursue a gig practising the black arts of PR on St Kilda Road.

As is so often the case these days, we both sort-of followed our respective journeys from Facebook, where – among other things – I monitor with interest the comings and goings of my extended family of media industry brothers and sisters.

That all changed a few weeks back when I received a wonderful tweet from Eliza:

“Hi Kenny, how are you? Am moving to Footscray tomorrow – will need to keep a closer eye on your blog!”


My reply was immediate:

“Hi Eliza! Wow that’s great! Will you have dindins with me and Bennie?”

We took our chat into private channels and – bingo! – here we are just a few weeks later having a swell dinner with Eliza and her partner, Josh.


Kokeb joined the ranks of Footscray’s Ethiopian eateries a few months ago.

It’s a charming space and we are equally charmed by the service offered us by Helen and the music – on a Tuesday night! – of Melaku.

The menu has all the Ethiopian regulars covered, with a few more interesting items.

But we do away with all that – in the interests of easing “catching up” conversation – by going for the $22 a head banquet.

Eliza has us all laughing with stories of how her PR gig came unstuck and we quickly and in some depth swap notes on how we’re both faring these days, she as online editor and social media honcho … back at the Addy.

It’s a great role for her, I reckon.

But Bennie and I are just as delighted to have she and Josh as new neighbours, and excited to introduce them – for the first time – to the delights of Ethiopian food and injera.

They take to them with gusto – and so they should, as the Kobeb banquet spread is top-notch.

All is fresh, hot and tasty.


We get two kinds of lamb tibs – the regular “white” and the more spicy and red “Kokeb” tibs. Both very good.

There’s the chopped greens of gomen wot and the delicious and chunky carrot, cabbage and potato of cabbage wot.

And, of course, lentils a couple of ways.

Best of all, though, is the shiro, which is served separately from an earthenware pot.

It’s a hot, spicy split pea soup/stew flavoured with berbere.

There’s plenty of food for our admission fee, and we even take Helen up on her offer to top up our supplies of the vegetable dishes and injera.

Some of the cool, crisp contrast usually offered by the presence of tangily-dressed lettuce, cucumber and tomato would have been a bonus.

As our meal and the eating of it wind down, Bennie gets a case of the restless – so we send him off on the daunting challenge of finding us somewhere that is doing dessert relatively late at night and relatively early in the week in Footscray central.


So we all troop off to the Korean joint Snowtree.


To my surprise, they’re still serving what look like pretty acceptable Korean dinners – so maybe this is somewhere to take note of as being (maybe) open when all else is closed hereabouts.

But we make to do with a couple of serves of their “Snowtree Belgium waffle” ($7.50).

The waffles are just OK and the cream, I’m almost certain, comes from a can; but all is wolfed down anyway – including all the fruit and the frozen yogurt.

Welcome to the ‘hood, Eliza and Josh, and – yes – we’ll be making the housewarming!






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


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?”

“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

Walia Ibex


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.

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.

Addis Abeba on Urbanspoon

Lemat Injera Bakery


157 Nicholson St, Footscray. Phone: 9689 006

There is much more to Ethiopian food – and the broader north African food culture that has become such integral part of western suburbs life – than injera.

But in many ways, injera is emblematic of colours, flavours and aromas that are so alluring.

So I am thrilled beyond words to be invited to witness injera being made at Lemat Bakery, in the heart of Footscray’s lovely African hub of Nicholson St.

The establishment is managed – and the injera made – by Sesen Assefa. Her genial and voluble husband prefers to stay in the background, but is happy to provide me all the information I need.

The couple met in the very early ’90s, in Sudan, and like so many endured many long years in exile and of menial jobs before opening their bakery in 2006 – just as the influx of north African diaspora into Melbourne’s west began in earnest.

In Ethiopia, injera is made with teff.

As it will soon be in Australia, restrictions on its importation apparently having been lifted or soon to be.

Given that teff is a grain of mightily ancient heritage, I reckon this can only be a good thing in a world in which the shrinking gene pool and diversity of seed stores is under threat.

In the meantime, like the Vietnamese community and others before them, the folks at Lemat have been doing just fine with what’s at hand, modifying recipes with locally available ingredients for the best, most authentic results.

That means the injera we have all been enjoying is made with a mixture of flours – maize, self-raising and wholemeal wheat, sorghum and barley.

The batter is fermented for 24 hours – no yeast or other agents are used – before being deftly poured on to hot, round platters.

In a minute or so, the injera – smooth side down, spongy side up – is ready to be equally skillfully slipped on to straw mats and placed on long tables with the rest of the day’s order.

As well the bakery produces “sweet”, unfermented injera for its Sudanese customers.

The Lemat output is split between restaurants, groceries and families.

The aroma is like that of any other bakery – but in many ways so very different. And quite intoxicating!

Out front, I delight in a half-hour conversation with Mr Lemat – a virtual crash course for me that ranges from injera and Ethiopian food in general through to Coptic Christianity, the dynamics of “facebook revolution” and the role they are playing in north Africa (including Algeria that very morning), the equally fascinating nuances and subtleties that accompany inter-actions between the various African communities in Footscray (and Melbourne in general), contemporary Ethiopia, the Sundanese separation referendum and much more.

As we are talking, the manager of Awash comes and goes with her daily order of injera, but it is no less likely that the staff of Khartoum – just a few doors up the street, and nominally a Sudanese restaurant – will drop in for injera to go with the Ethiopian dishes on their menu.

My humble thanks to the people of Lemat Injera Bakery for sharing with me their stories and their baking skills.