Eating with your hands - Ethiopian dinner

There was this restaurant that I used to go on special occasions in Montreal called Le Nil Bleu which served Ethiopian cuisine and had quite a romantic setting with a waterfall in the restaurant so I was excited to set up a dinner in Toronto to this cute spot that I've been eying for a while. It's on Queen West sandwiched between the Drake Hotel and the Gladstone with a big patio that's perfect for people watching! So my friends Matt, Stacey and Julie (who was in from Winnipeg) and I went to Addis Ababa where we got prime corner seats on the patio to enjoy the weather and the people walking by. This restaurant has been around for 19years and has a jazzy live band play for dinners as well.

Our server Nat (NatNate) came to our table and immediately wowed us with his charm and conversation letting us know about the local Ethiopian beer they served (we really enjoyed the lager versus the malt beer) and told us our selection of vegetarian and meats dishes were the perfect combination and exactly what he would've done if we just asked him to suggest the dishes for us.
The novelty about Ethiopian cuisine is that you are given no utensils. That's right- you eat with your hands using injera- which is the traditional spongy sourdough flatbread, which you use to pick up your bites. Beware- you may not seem full after your meal but this bread has a tendency to expand in your stomach an hour later and you will feel very full!!!
We ordered things like kifto - which is spicy Ethiopian steak tartar- a bit too salty for my taste, a marinated chicken dish with garlic, ginger, peppers and spices - very good and a combo platter of vegetarian dishes which included shiro wat (spiced peas in pepper sauce), yatakit wat(Steamed cabbage and potatoes seasoned with garlic and ginger), yekit wat (split peas in pepper sauce), Beets, Misr (black lentils), Fasolia (green beans, tomatoes and carrots in ginger and garlic sauce), and Gommen Wat (Collard greens). We loved the vegetarian dishes! The only thing was that Stacey was really looking forward to ordering this dish called Tibs (beef with exotic herbs and hot peppers) but they ran out.
So after Nat took our orders - literally 5 minutes later - a plate full of different colours on top of injera came to our table. We were a bit confused as we hadn't even received our beers yet but because it was placed on our table - we started eating and enjoying. About halfway through our plate - Nat came back to check in on us leading me to question exactly what we were eating b/c it seemed like there were things we didn't order on our plate like the lamb (which was incredible!) and he realized the other server made a mistake and put the wrong plate in front of us!!! ahaha! Oh well!
Nat wondered if we still wanted our plate of food and Matt- our most enthusiastic friend exclaimed 'bring it on!'. After almost finishing our second dinner we were all feeling pretty stuffed. We actually dared Matt to roll up the injera like a wrap and eat the remaining plate which he attempted and failed badly.
Even though our bellies were stuffed, we needed to try their roasted bananas served with vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of honey and of course their coffee. Ethopia is where coffee originated. We had Nat come and join us for dessert and to explain the coffee process. The coffee beans get roasted in a flat pan until they are black shining and the aromatic oil is coaxed out of them and then they get grinded. Then the coffee is served in a clay coffee pot locally known as 'jebena', which is round at the bottom and is accompanied by the burning of frankincense.
This was such a great dinner and looking forward to coming back here again.
Addis Ababa-1184 Queen Street West (Queen and Northcote)
**** stars
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