Friday, November 30, 2012

Show-stopping Ethiopian in North Melbourne

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Telling someone who lives in Footscray that they know a great Ethiopian restaurant elsewhere in Melbourne is kind of like selling ice to eskimos.  But hey - I like ice.

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Little Africa is on Victoria Street in North/West Melbourne, not far from the Vic Market.  It's teeny tiny inside and quite lovely, with interesting bits and bobs decorating the walls and each table set with a tiny red tea light.  I loved the gorgeous young waiter, softly spoken and wearing regulation hipster garb of skinny jeans turned up at the ankles and black plimsolls.

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Some frosty beers while we perused the menu.  There are loads of interesting things, all with clear descriptions.  I had my eye on kitfo - "freshly minced lean beaf sauteed with warm clarified butter, mitmita [chilli] and cardamon" or maybe dorho aletcha - "cubes of chicken breast marinated and sauteed with spices, onions and peppers".  But it's still very hard to go past just the straight-up vegetarian combo as a good marker of an Ethiopian joint.

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Veg combo, $20 for one, $35 for two (each additional person $18)

WHOA - did I say marker?  I meant goalpost.  As in, sailed right through.  Yes, I know it makes no sense.  But look at those colours and textures!  The chef (mum?) brought out this huge platter covered with a big sombrero-like woven cloche.  So from the 6 o'clock possie we have dubba - pumpkin cooked until collapsing in berbere spice.  Sweet, rich, oh so divine.  Heading left, I loved these simple veg, cooked very lightly in a little garlic and still with so much freshness, colour and flavour.  What a fresh, modern touch.  Then brown lentils, cooked with berbere, earthy and just perfect.

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So to the left of the lentils is fool - dried broad beans cooked down with tomatoes, chillis and onions for a warm cumin-rich treat.  Then, still heading left, my fave and something not all too often seen - shiro, powdered dried chickpeas cooked with berbere for a silky smooth, rich, seductive paste.  Then finally cabbage and carrots cooked in garlic, ginger and turmeric.  The cabbage, like the veg, was left chunky in leaves - I think I prefer it a bit more shredded.  But oh boy, the flavours, I tell you!!!  They were all brought together by lemony, super-fresh salad in the middle.  This was seriously incredible East African food.

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We ate to our heart's content and then we ate some more...and some more, and suddenly our "dinner and a few beers" looked like it might be more like "one beer and stagger home, protuberant stomach first".  We managed to waddle the few doors to Prudence where we groaned in painful satisfaction and sipped icy beer very slowly.

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As we sat, the lovely young man from Little Africa entered again and again with more giant trays with peaked, woven covers that emitted smells that still tantalised, despite our stuffed state.  Turns out the good citizens of North Melbourne have cottoned on to this most excellent idea, and are taking it up with gusto.

This is East African fare worth travelling for.  RUN DON'T WALK!

Little Africa on Urbanspoon

PS:  I would book.  They are already pretty busy!  If they're full, you can always "order in" at Prudence!
PPS:  I am pretty sure they have rice!  (I heard someone ordering it.)

Little Africa
358 Victoria Street, North Melbourne
Phone:  9329 8018

Hours:  Tues-Sun 5-10pm

6 comments:

  1. Was that rice pps for my benefit? ;)

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  2. Thanks for the tip! As a North Melbournian, will definitely be checking it out. Had African last night in Collingwood at a place called 'The Horn'. Food was great, but what makes it super awesome is the live music on Thurs and Sunday nights. It's also popular with the kids. A little after 7pm Sunday, the dancefloor resembles a moshpit at a Wiggles concert.

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    1. Oh, how delightful! That would be so gorgeous.

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  3. Awesome stuff! I love how this place is so close to the CBD too. Ethiopian food is one cuisine I have yet to try and have been clueless as to where to go for that until now. Thanks for another great recommendation, Lauren. You are my food compass in times of need haha! For instance, I brought my parents (who are here in town) to High Poing shopping centre last Friday after seeing your post on it. They loved it, we had such a great time there and only have you to thank!

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    1. My pleasure Winston :-) I reckon Little Africa would be a brilliant starting point.

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