Last evening a few of us gathered for what I hope is just to be the first of many Chowhound get-togethers. As recommended by Mr. Leff we went to Ethiopian Village on the Danforth. The company was amazing finally people who have some idea what I am talking about when I go on about this chef or that cheese !
Okay, onto the evening and the food. The front of the Ethiopian Village is a boutique type store where proprietor Aziza Akdem sells Ethiopian books, art, clothing and some packaged food items. Wonderful heady aromas from the back of the establishment make their way through the store and draw you further in where there are comfy sofas and a few tables in full view of Azizas kitchen. Aziza greets us graciously, our group are the only ones here, a television is on in the corner and I feel as though I have been invited to dinner in someones home in a far off country.
This is my first experience with Ethiopian food so please excuse my inability to properly describe each item we ate. Aziza brought us some little bites to munch on as we got to get to know each other. Two items one, not unlike a samosa but filled with spinach and lentils, is it possible that this is known as sanbusa? I dont know. Also on the platter were these lovely little fritter type morsels, a little like bharji but lighter. I think these may be known as yeshimbra assa and both were served with an amazing peppery-vinegary condiment I cannot find the name for! Spicy enough to knock you off your chair if you are not careful! :) I am kidding, its not really killer spicy but the Chowhounds who where there will know why I said this.
Our main course arrived shortly thereafter. A large platter of the most tender injera arrived laden with mostly vegetarian stews and a center of spicy beef wat for us carnivores. I dont think I can clearly identify each item but there were stews of lentils, eggplant, some florets of broccoli, all in lovely and distinct sauces and garnished with just a bit of diced tomato and lettuce. At his point we had some thirsty Chowhounds so Aziza directed us to the fridge in the main store to select our sodas. It is interesting to note that this group with oh so discerning palates overwhelmingly selected either grape or cream soda to accompany their meals. :)
Satiated, Aziza began to prepare our coffee. She roasted the beans in a pot and brought them around the table for us to smell before she ground them. She then prepared the coffee in little glass cups with saucers. She explained that once the tray of glasses is set none must remain empty even if someone chooses not to partake. So a small amount of the coffee is poured into any remaining glasses to nourish all spirits. The coffee is served black with sugar and while it is a little like espresso I experienced none of the bitterness of its Italian counterpart.
All in all a lovely evening and although I have no other Ethiopian experience to compare it to I feel pretty comfortable recommending it. Keep in mind that it is more like dining in someones home and not your conventional restaurant experience. That said Go Go Go! Aziza indicated to me that the SARS scare has very much affected her business, I asked her if she would consider joining us on some of our future adventures and she would love to if her business picks up and she could pay someone to mind the store one evening. She insisted that I bring home leftovers for my husband
Thank you danbird for organizing this