Ethiopian food is brilliant for cold weather in my opinion. I'm yet to find a "bad" Ethiopian restaurant in Footscray - they all have their charms. Dinknesh Lucy, next to Lentil as Anything on Barkly Street, is named after one of the earliest hominids ever found, unearthed in modern-day Ethiopia.
Here's the little dais dedicated to the coffee ceremony which you can book ahead. The green beans are pan-roasted before being ground, brewed and served. You can see/buy the green beans at Blue Peak Coffee and Nuts, next to Coles in Footscray Plaza.
My understanding of Ethiopian food is rudimentary at best but it can be vaguely divided into wet stews (wot are spicy, alicha are mild) and tibs dishes which are drier, like stir-fries. B and I couldn't decide between the yebeg tibes and the zil zil tibes. We asked the lady and she immediately said, "Yebeg tibes. Zil zil tibes, you might not like." So naturally we wanted the zil zil!
Zil zil tibes, $12
I have had yebeg tibes before and it is great - juicy lamb pieces dry-fried in clarified butter with onion and green chilli. Apparently the zil zil is partly dried meat - the pieces were long "steaks" that had been cut to open somewhat like paper dolls in a long zigzag. The flavour was fantastic, rich, aged, complemented by the tang of the onions and green chilli and with a fabulous charred flavour. The meat was so tender too yet hardened as it cooled, which is not a criticism - evidently the heat must "wake up" the fibres somehow and it kind of re-dries as it cools down again. Really fantastic - definitely one to order again.
Lucy Combination, $15
The chef's combination is always a safe bet in any Ethiopian restaurant. This didn't follow the exact dishes on the menu, which I didn't mind in the slightest. Starting from the bottom left-hand corner is "sugo" which is a meat stew not on the menu - rich and tomatoey. Going clockwise, bozena shiro, chickpea flour with beef pieces and berbere (tasty but quite salty), alicha wat, lamb pieces in a mild sauce with garlic and ginger (divine!) and in the middle, key wot, lamb pieces again with ginger, garlic and the addition of paprika-rich red berbere spice. On the right lay magenta beetroot and potato and turmeric-yellow potatoes, carrots and cabbage. All very individual, totally yummy, rich but not overpoweringly so.
Injera, Ethiopia's national bread, made by fermenting flour and then cooking on one side like a pancake - see Kenny's recent visit to Footscray's Lemat Bakery to see how. Just tear off pieces and pinch up the meat or vegies, like pita bread. My kids love it and I am happy to let them eat nothing but bread and save all the rest for myself! Eventually they get curious and ask to taste a bit of yours. This goes for rice at Asian restaurants or roti at Indian restaurants - it doesn't matter if they won't eat the whole spread, just start them off with the basics and you can build on it. Or not and leave it all to yourself, heh heh.
Love this place - we did not need both dishes; one would have sufficed and fed both of us for $12 or $15. That night we were served by three gorgeous women who had such snappy panache. Don't let the empty chairs fool you, it was relatively busy when we arrived. Dinknesh Lucy do live traditional music about once a month - give them a call to find out when the next night is on. Worth the walk, even on a wintery night.
227 Barkly Street, Footscray (map)
Phone: 9687 6444
Hours: 7 days 11am - 11pm