Tonight was another random meet up with Kim and Elaine & Chris of Parker Pages. It's really nice to meetup with fellow bloggers, especially ones that know something about the food we were about to eat. You see, I'm not well-versed with Ethiopian food and African food for all that matter. I think there are roughly a dozen Ethiopian restaurants in the GVRD, so it's a bit difficult to get much exposure. However, when it was suggested that we go try Axum, I was all for it. It's been too much sushi and ramen lately anyways.
I arrived at the same time as Elaine & Chris and they were there to witness my obsession with taking pictures of the restaurant exterior (Kim's obsession too!). It's a modest place, located across the street from The Brave Bull. They might consider fixing the peeling signage since it might be only "ESTRANT" pretty soon. After a short wait, Kim arrived and we got down to ordering some grub. The Vegetarian Combo seemed like a good value for $10.00. We had a choice of 4 "from the above items" on the menu. Curiously, there were only 4 items "above". So essentially, we had as much choice as a voter in a Communist state. However, it only appears to be a printing error, since there are actually 5 items to choose from. So from what I can gather, the 4 items that we did end up getting were (clockwise from the top left): Miser Wot, Kik Alicha, Spinach Gomen and Tikil Gomen. Both the Miser Wot and Kik Alicha were a bit spicy and predictably had a "refried bean" mixed with lentil texture. The Spinach Gomen had the consistency of Palak Paneer without the cheese. I wasn't a big fan of the cabbage, it was a bit slimy (but still a bit crunchy). All 4 were served atop a large Injera (which is a spongy pancake-like bread). At first, they look like rolled up face towels; but in reality, they are soft and fluffy with a lemony flavour. We also got 2 big plates of Injera as eating vessels/utensils. Yes, in Ethiopia, they eat with their hands, no fork or knives here. We did cheat with a spoon though...
The most interesting dish of the night had to be the Gored Gored. Essentially raw beef warmed in spiced butter, the owner (?) was a bit concerned that we didn't know what we were getting ourselves into. Hey, we're game for almost anything! Okay, I really liked the flavour profile since it was indeed buttery and a bit spicy. However, I found it tender and chewy at the same time (sounds weird I know). I realize that uncooked lean beef will be a bit tough especially if it isn't an expensive cut. But it was tender in some spots and quite chewy in others. Served on the side was a home made cheese which looked a little like dry ricotta. It was a bit bland.
We ended up getting one protein from each meat section. For our chicken dish, we selected the Doro Alicha Wot which is essentially a chicken curry. As stated on the menu, the sauce was quite mild with some sweetness. Kim and I agreed that we prefer dark meat as opposed to the breast meat used here (a bit dry); but then again, that is just a personal preference. Elaine and I thought the Fish Tibs was the highlight of the night. Not as oily nor spicy as the Lega Tibs, the fish was perfectly cooked. Tender and flaky while still retaining its shape, the mild sauce did not hide the natural sweetness of the fish.
Curioulsy, the Lega Tibs was cooked in the same sauce as the Fish Tibs. But, the flavour profile was completely different. It was a spicier and had a really large oil slick on the top. Chris informed me it was ghee and it was indeed butter, especially when it totally soaked my piece of Injera. I also suspect the fattiness of the lamb contributed to the slick. The lamb itself had a nice gaminess to it and most pieces were quite tender.
At this point we were really quite full. There was not way we could finish the rest of the Injera. Total carb overload. Being that I am not really all that familiar with Ethiopian cuisine, I can't say this was better or worse than any previous experience. What I do know is that the meal was definitely different and a pretty good value. The best thing of all was obvious: great company, fun banter and food. You can't really lose with that combination.
- Good value
- Something a bit different
- Friendly owner (?)
- I personally didn't like the textures of the proteins other than the fish (but that's the way it should be, so ignore me if you don't share the same preference)