Restaurant Review – An Ethiopian Safari

Posted on May 26, 2010

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Nyala African Restaurant

Where? 113 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
Prices? Entrees $5-11; mains $13-17.50; desserts $5-$6; banquets $26-$32 (4-6 courses). Corkage $3.50 a bottle.
Phone (03) 9419-9128
Hours? Daily 6pm-late
Payment Accepted MasterCard, Visa, Diners Club, American Express and EFTPOS
Licensed with bar and BYO $2 corkage

Nyala is again another restaurant in Brunswick St Fitzroy but this time I dined in perhaps what’s considered to be the less ‘grundge chic’ end of Brunsiwck St, that is, opposite the commission flats. There were no surprises when I was able to get a park right out the front as I double checked that my car was actually locked.

The restaurant welcomes you with an open door and a smiling caftan wearing Ethiopian who quickly shows you to your seats. I did reserve a table, however being a Monday night the restaurant was unsurprisingly quiet with only two other tables of customers.

The inside, like most of the places I’ve visited is rather shabby, half of the chairs remind me of something you’d find in an old classroom but then the walls and ceiling are decorated with colourful African souvenirs and traditional art. The embellished light fittings were possibly my favourite feature and redeem the decor slightly.

Ethiopian cuisine characteristically consists of spicy vegetable and meat dishes, usually in the form of wat (or wot), a thick stew, served atop ‘injera’, a large sourdough flatbread which is made out of fermented teff flour. Ethiopians traditionally eat with their right hands, using pieces of injera to pick up bites of entrées and side dishes.

With this is mind, despite the obligatory cutlery, Nyala stayed true to Ethiopian form.

To start with we nibbled on the mix combination entrée which included your choice of dips and other entrées. We went for the ‘Deberja’, an eggplant and chilli dip served with mountain bread, the African style somosa known as ‘Sambusa’, the ‘Baboutie’, a delicous South African specialty made from fruit chutney, mince beef, spices and saltanas, and finally the ‘Abeba Goman’ which is basically fried colliflour.

The presentation was colourful and clean and the flavours had punch to match. All the entrées were pretty yummy, I particularly enjoyed the ‘sambusa’ and the ‘baboutie’ which were rather spicy and flavorsome.

For the main we ordered the ‘Doro Tibs’, a boneless chicken dish, sauteed in chili and ‘Awazi’ sauce, served with the injera bread. The chicken was spicy and aromatic and the addition of the injera bread worked perfectly as you just wanted something to soak up the sauce.

For some weird reason, although I’ve said this before, once AGAIN the bread was another speciality all of it’s own and unlike anything I’d eaten before. Well actually it resembled a pancake but of the lightest, fluffiest kind that just slurped up the sauce.

Reading my earlier posts I seem like some sort of bread fanatic but it just so happens that all of these cultures have had their own unique and delicious bread.

The standout feature as far as atmosphere goes, for me, was the African music playing in the background. The owner told us it was a mix of Ethiopian and South African beats that weren’t overpowering so you couldn’t speak but still made the place fun and lively.

Overall, I really enjoyed the evening, the staff were friendly and the food was tasty. The atmosphere was bit lacking but the music livened it up. Considering all of this, I’d rate Nyala a 3/5.

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Posted in: African