Michelle and I had talked about going to eat at Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant for a while. The first time that I tried Ethiopian cuisine was way back in August 2009 after a trip to the beach with my friends.
I actually don’t even remember the name of the Ethiopian restaurant that I went to anymore either. I stalked my old Facebook photos and found out the name of the restaurant was Rendez-vous Restaurant Bar & Cafe haha.
Ethiopian cuisine is one that includes a big flatbread called injera that you eat together with toppings with your hands. Injera is a “sourdough-risen flatbread with a unique, slightly spongy texture and traditionally made out of teff flour”. Meat and vegetables are put on top of the injera. You usually share a platter with the people at your table and eat the meat and vegetables by tearing the injera bread to eat with the toppings. I remember my friends and I didn’t really like the food at our first experience. I thought that the spongy injera bread was a little weird tasting.
Fast forward to recently when I decided to go to try it out again with Michelle. Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant is located 2 minutes away from Ossington Station in downtown Toronto on 869 Bloor Street West. There was a Groupon available online which ewas a great deal of $12 for $30 worth of food! I was excited to try this cuisine again to see what my opinion of it this time would be like especially with such a great deal. Since it had been so many years since my first visit and attempt at eating Ethiopian food, I wondered if I would like it again or have the same opinion.
The Groupon told me that the deal was on from Monday to Friday but after we placed our order with the server and I showed her the Groupon, she told me that it was a holiday (Easter Monday) and didn’t honour my Groupon voucher. I was a little peeved to be honest because the deal said that it could be used from Monday to Friday. If you are reading this, please make sure that you call ahead of time to see if they will honour your Groupon because it sucks when you have to commute more than an hour and a half from home to travel to this restaurant and find out that the voucher isn’t redeemable. 😡
Anyway, because this was also Michelle’s favourite Ethiopian restaurant, she chose the best things to get off the menu. I was totally open to trying her recommendations! 🙂
We ordered two things to share, a raw beef that was similar to beef tartare (the moment I saw this, I wanted to try it so badly because I absolutely love beef tartare!) and a vegetarian platter.
Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant is a family owned and family run restaurant. There was only one person serving the entire restaurant when we were here for an early dinner at 4 p.m. and there were a few customers dining in at the time.
It didn’t take too long for the platter to arrive. Ethiopian food is a colourful cuisine. They provided wet naps for us (so if you didn’t want to get up to go to the washroom to wash your hands before eating, you would still be okay by using the wet naps — if you aren’t a complete germaphobe, that is).
The freshly minced, very lean beef was mixed with mitmita and butter and called “kitfo“. It’s traditionally served raw like steak tartare or lebleb (which is very rare). The butter has special herbs, called Koseret, that gives it a distinct flavour.
The vegetarian platter was enough for two people and included a combination of splint peas, lentils, chick peas, cabbage, collard greens, vegetables, and hilbet (mixer of beans, garlic, ginger, and fenugreek).
The kitfo was also served in the vegetarian platter. We were also given a plate of injera (it was folded up and warm). To eat it, you tear off the injera and use it to scoop up whatever you wanted on the platter. The red powder in the small container was some spice that you could use to sprinkle on your food before you ate it.
I liked the kitfo. It was different from usual steak tartare because it was lukewarm and a little spicy. It was very lean and meaty and I didn’t detect the butter in it at all.
The vegetarian platter was extremely fresh and I especially loved the collard greens, beets, cabbage, and various vegetables. It was almost like eating a seasoned salad that was just slightly cooked.
Last time, I didn’t really like my first taste of Ethiopian food because I thought that the injera was very mushy and the texture wasn’t something I truly enjoyed. This time, however, the spongy injera was decent and the meats and vegetables more than made up for the unusual texture.
We didn’t end up finishing the entire platter because it was a lot of food for us! I was glad that I got to revisit Ethiopian food again and was much more pleased about it this time around.
There were so many other dishes on the menu that looked appealing. I already know that I will be returning to this restaurant again. I want to use up that Groupon voucher because I really don’t want to waste the money I used to buy it… Stay tuned because this blog post will be updated by mid-May (that’s when the voucher expires XD).
Have you been to an Ethiopian restaurant before? What was your experience like? Share your comments in the space below! 🙂
Updated: April 29, 2016
Prisicilla and I went to Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant yesterday for dinner. It was my second visit there and my third time eating Ethiopian cuisine.
The sole reason I came back was to use my Groupon voucher since the server didn’t honour it the first time I was here (see blog review on the top). [The Groupon voucher was for $30 worth of food purchased for $12.]
We were here on a Wednesday night so of course our voucher was accepted! (If it wasn’t again, I would have had a field day exclaiming my displeasure haha).
Since it was Priscilla’s first time trying Ethiopian food and I wanted to try more of their classics, we ordered the Vegetarian Platter for 2 to share and also the Zilzil Tibs (tender beef stir fried with onions, spices).
It was interesting to see what Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant had renovated since the short time that I’d last visited. Too bad I didn’t take a photo the last time I was here to show you the difference.
Now, instead of having their bar in the centre of the restaurant like an island, their bar had moved to the back of their restaurant and in a typical rectangular formation. I liked the layout of their restaurant before since the bar being placed in the centre was unique and looked good.
After we placed our order with the only server that was in the restaurant — it was really busy that night and there were so many people inside the restaurant — we chatted and caught up with our travel stories. The food definitely took longer to arrive than the first visit (it made sense since there were more customers).
When our food did arrive, the server placed the large vegetarian platter on the table first and swiftly pushed the meat from the Zilzil Tibs dish onto the side of the platter. Cool! I didn’t know it would be served like that.
See my action shot of this being done? 😀
I gave Priscillia a brief introduction of how to eat the food with the injera.
There was a lot of food on the table and it was so colourful! The Zilzil Tibs smelled great!
As this was my third time eating Ethiopian food, I found that I enjoyed it much more than ever before. I was used to the unique texture and taste of the injera now. Yay! Thus, I found myself enjoying the food so much more.
The Zilzil Tibs beef were cut into chunks and there were a lot of big chunks of carrot. It was really good beef!
The vegetarian platter contained eight varieties of mashed up beet, cabbage, collard greens, two types of beans, and more. My flavour from this platter were the cabbage and something that tasted like curry. Yum!
We ended up not finishing the huge platter and took it home to enjoy. Figuring out how to pack it was a challenge as well as a funny experience — soggy injera and leftover mash! 😉
I am interested to try other Ethiopian restaurants in the city as well as right in Ethiopia as well! We’re so lucky to live in Toronto to be able to try out so many types of cultural food. 🙂