Toronto’s Little Ethiopia: Africa’s Take on Tapas

It’s no secret that Toronto is diversifying, and with an influx of new cultures comes a demand for foreign food. For someone who loves food – like yours truly – this fresh array of exotic foods is reason enough to try something new. Recently, I decided to try a cuisine from Africa, and so I headed to a stretch of the Danforth, far beyond the souvlaki and gyros of Greektown. There I discovered a hidden gem where bold, rich flavours are emerging from the woodworks, an area that many African-Canadians know well: Little Ethiopia.

I strolled into the vibrant yet cozy Rendez-Vouz. It was bustling; a fellow guest told me that I had found a real deal. The owners ensure that everything from decor to ingredients are sourced straight from Ethiopia. I sat down and tucked into a meal to remember.

Injera to share-a
The country’s beloved injera, a flatbread made from teff, a nutty, poppy seed-sized grain, is high in calcium, iron and, as well as being rather tasty, is also gluten-free. This spongy bread has quickly grown in popularity and is now shipped to Toronto from Ethiopia twice a week. In Addis Ababa, everyone at the dinner table eats from the same plate, a custom that symbolizes loyalty and trust. Ethiopians believe that if people share a plate they won’t betray one another, and they take this tradition very seriously. Everyone around the table takes a piece of injera in their hand and uses it to scoop up meats, vegetables and grains from the communal plate. I have to say, I was a little unsure about the “no utensils rule,” but using injera as a spoon made for a unique experience; all the flavours hit your palate at once, mingling together to create a burst of harmonious flavour.

Tradtional Injera. Image: golubkakitchen.com

Tradtional Injera. Image: golubkakitchen.com

Mahberawi, Doro Wot and Beyaynetu
If it’s your first time eating Ethiopian, my recommendation is mahberawi, which means “combination” in Amharic. On most menus, the dish is served as a combination of meats that offers a prime sampling of different flavours. For a real highlight, the choice is doro wot, a complex chicken dish that tests a chef’s true skill. For vegetarians, you have to try beyaynetu, a medley of vegetables in savoury sauces. No matter your choice, the beauty of Toronto’s Ethiopian cuisine is it’s price; at Nazareth on Bloor Street West, $12 gets you and your date an abundance of food, beers not included. That’s a great Friday night that won’t break the bank.

Beyaynetu, Image: sodere.com

Beyaynetu, Image: sodere.com

Ethiopian coffee ceremony
After dinner, make sure you sign up for the coffee ceremony. Regardless of who ordered the ceremony, the hostess will come to each table, hot pan in hand, to let everyone in the restaurant smell the freshly roasted coffee beans. After 20 or 30 minutes, a fresh pot of intense espresso-like brew is delivered to your table and poured in an elaborate manner, creating a waterfall of smooth aromas in the delicate porcelain cups. Ethiopian coffee beans are one the richest and most flavourful in the world, so for coffee lovers this is truly a treat. Each cup is served with popcorn as a unique palate-cleansing snack.

Ethiopian coffee, Image: auxmrestaurant.com

Ethiopian coffee, Image: auxmrestaurant.com

If you’re looking for a unique meal with a cozy atmosphere, don’t hesitate to venture to Little Ethiopia and indulge your senses.

Related: Parkdale’s Little Tibet: Culinary Scene On The Rise

What are some of your favourite Ethiopian restaurants in Toronto? Let Vv Magazine know in the comments below or tweet us @ViewTheVibe.

Alida Di Placido

Alida Di Placido

Alida recently completed her MBA from University of Bologna’s food and wine program and has been eating and drinking her way through some of the world’s culinary hot spots.
Alida Di Placido