On a cold weeknight in winter, I was out for some dinner with my usual band of food misfits (and I say misfits because we have stumbled upon some bad food many a times). They wanted to eat something different that they hadn't tried before. I had been raving about Ethiopian food for some time now and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to introduce them to the cuisine. On checking some of the reviews on Urbanspoon we decided to try out a place I had never been to either - Awash - It had 4 and a half stars and sounded promising. Nestled quietly on the less busy end of Hopkins St, Footscray, this little gem was just waiting to be discovered by unsuspecting foodies like us.
The restaurant was empty albeit one table of four older gents of African origin. An empty dining room usually sets of alarm bells in my head, ringing about bad food and or service and I am sure my other cohorts were thinking the same thing too. But we were to discover that there isn't much truth in this notion - at least not on this night anyways.
The owner operator approached and welcomed us into the bright gaudily decorated room. She was dressed in traditional costume and looked like a typical Ethiopian mother going about her chores against a backdrop of a bright maroon wall adorned with traditional painings. Behind the counter was her kitchen setup, that added to the homeliness with her four burner stove with pots and pans steaming busily on the hobs.
What's good to drink? Well, when in Rome...I mean Ethiopia we must try some local beer and Harar beer was suggested for us to try. We did not need convincing - bring it on. It was a crisp drop of the amber stuff that was certainly refreshing and was going to be perfect to sooth the impending chilli heat from the food we were about to eat - unbeknownst to my fellow diners. They had eaten some of my hot and spicy creations before and I didn't think Ethiopian would be hard to palette - besides we had the Harar beer at our disposal if required.
|Dishing up the Doro Wat|
Our host suggested that with appetites like ours, that we order at least two meat mains and a veg dish. She brought out the Injera bread first laid out on a huge plate ready to be dressed in the spicy stews that followed. I was looking forward to the Chicken Doro Wat as I wanted to taste how well the version I had made stacked up to a real Ethiopian's. it came served with a hard boiled egg and although very scant on the meat pieces, it was well flavoured and definitely had a kick. I could have done with a few more pieces of chicken as a small piece was not enough.
|Full Forward - Derek Tibs|
I highly recommend the Derek Tibs - and although it sounds like a football player's name I assure you it's not. This is a dish of dry pan fried beef or lamb (we had the lamb) cooked with spices and served piping hot. The lamb was tender and delicious and really put up good competition to the doro wats as our favourite dish - it even came served in an ornate dish, which added to its charm.
Being the big meat eaters that we were, it seems remiss of us to stop at two meat dishes so we ordered the the Awash Special Tibs - a dish of stewed beef cooked with spices and Ethiopian seasoned butter - Niter Kibbeh. This was a nice wet stew with lots of spicy runny gravy.
|Awash Special Tibs|
|Ful - beans never tasted so good!|
Pressed to order a vegetarian dish the decision was made to go with the Ful - Ethiopia's version of the very popular Arabic dish Foul Medames. Considering the Ful had beans at it's base, this dish was surprisingly a hit. The flavour that Berbere spices give to mashed beans is quite unique and well worth a try. Even if you are not a fan of beans this dish will impress as you tend to forget that you are eating the humble bean.
Traditionally, wots and tibs are laid over a huge Injera loaf and our host served portions to form a circle in front of us so that each of us would have a taste of each dish.
|Dig in don't wait!|
We were brought out scroll rolled extra injera to use for the meal and the best part was waiting for us at the end when we would be able to eat the stew soaked injera from the main plate.The quiet little restaurant that we entered about an hour ago had certainly surprised us with its delicious food and homely service. Since we practically had the place to ourselves we had run of the house and asked the host to crank up the stereo with some of her hometown sounds. It was quite a unique experience that I can liken to being at your grandma's home, where she is cooking up a storm in the kitchen for you and your mates.
Footscray has its fair share of Ethiopian restaurants and you really are spoilt for choice. Despite its poor patronage Awash definitely could contend for some of the best tasting cuisine from the region and I am most happy to have tried it and can attest to that claim.
|If you're nice to the owner, she will let you wear the Ethiopian knitted cap too! All hail the Fresh Prince of Awash!|