Thursday, 12 January 2012

Starting my Return to Toronto with Hands-On Eating

Vegetarian Bayaaynatu (for two) with an additional order of Gored-Gored at Ethiopian House.  All the food items were served on a layer of injera.
When my sister and I arrived in Toronto a few days after Christmas with the parents in Ottawa, it was early evening and we were not in the mood for cooking dinner.  When my sister bounced a few suggestions on places to eat, I decided that we should give Ethiopian House a try; though she'd been there in the past, I'd never had Ethiopian cuisine, and there was no better time like the present.  When I got to the restaurant, located in a converted house on a quiet side street off Yonge near Wellesley, I found it fascinating that, for years, I've heard of Ethiopia for all the unfortunate reasons, yet its cuisine, though comparatively simpler than, say, Chinese or French cuisine, was colourful and lively.  Though there was some meat in Ethiopian cuisine, I understood that there was a stronger emphasis for vegetable dishes, and it was reflected in the menu at the restaurant and the meal my sister and I ordered.  (The following close-up photos are courtesy of my sister at
Gored-Gored, pieces of beef mixed with awaze (a form of chili paste) and berbere (a pepper-spice powder). (Photo courtesy of
At my sister's suggestion, we ordered the Vegetarian Bayaaynatu for two along with, to add an element of meat, an order of Gored-Gored, which was included in the large serving dish brought to us.  The food items were actually placed on a layer of injera, an Ethiopian steamed fermented flatbread which has a slightly sour flavour and is pockmarked on one side with many holes.  Food was eaten by hand, so pieces of injera were used to grasp the food items, with the added bonus that the bread would collect some of the sauces.  The Gored-Gored, beef in a sauce consisting of a form of chili paste called awaze and a pepper-spice powder called berbere, was fairly spicy and was nicely flavoured.
Along the front of the dish, from left to right, are Goman Wot (kale/collard greens in a mild sauce), Tikil Goman (cabbage, carrots and potatoes in turmeric sauce), and Atakelt Wot (mixed vegetables in tomato sauce). (Photo courtesy of
Along the back, from left to right, should be Sherro Wot (seasoned chick-pea powder in berbere sauce) and Yekik Alicha (split peas in tumeric sauce).  Note the partially exposed injera between the Sherro Wot and the salad. (Photo courtesy of
From top to bottom should be Kik Wot (split pea stew in berbere sauce), Misir Alicha (split lentil stew in a thick mild sauce) and Misir Wot (lentil stew in berbere sauce). (Photo courtesy of
The Vegetarian Bayaaynatu had wots, or stews, in the majority, and in terms of types of food items used, legumes such as lentils and chick peas were also in the majority.  The flavours, colours and richness varied, but all the elements were delicious, and I couldn't dip enough injera into those items.  Of all the items served, I especially enjoyed the Gored-Gored, the Goman Wot (kale/collard greens in a mild sauce), the Yekik Alicha (split peas in tumeric sauce), the Kik Wot (split pea stew in berbere sauce) and the Misir Wot (lentil stew in berbere sauce).  (Can you tell I have a new-found respect for berbere sauce now?)

Unfortunately we correctly deduced upon ordering our meal that we didn't have enough of an appetite to end our dinner with the coffee ceremony (we had to order it at least 30 minutes in advance), but some other tables ordered it and there was a pleasant aroma of popcorn, frankincense and strong coffee.  (In case you didn't already know, Ethiopia is the country of origin for coffee.)  My sister had the opportunity to enjoy the coffee ceremony the last time she ate here, and she appreciated the flavour of the coffee served.  In spite of skipping the coffee, I found dinner at this restaurant a pleasant and satisfying experience.

Prices are reasonable, and the Vegetarian Bayaaynatu is enjoyable for vegetarians and omnivores alike. Ethiopian House is a small joint (the tables are a bit tighter together than one would find in most restaurants), so reservations are recommended.

Name: Ethiopian House
Address: 4 Irwin Ave., Toronto, ON
Cuisine: Ethiopian
Price Range: $12-$45
Accessible: No

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