Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Lalibela Ethiopian

Vancouver may have a decent amount of African restaurants, but primarily Ethiopian and East African cuisine. I guess we do have South African restaurants if Nando's counts. Furthermore, there are even noticeably more Ethiopian than East African restaurants too, which I find surprising because I believe the former would be more popular to the locals. The reason is because Ethiopian cuisine is definitely an acquired taste in my opinion and it is not because of the stews, but due to the injera.

Lalibela is a family operated restaurant, where the owners are very humble and inviting. The restaurant is located in New Westminster right beside Hon's Wun Tun House and the interior is fairly spacious. Despite that there are only around ten tables however, I appreciate how the restaurant passed on squeezing in more seats. The atmosphere is very homey too and it truly feels as if you are stepping into someone's home. Even the restroom was squeaky clean! Cleaner than some of my friends' washrooms too.

Rating: 3.5/5.
Every order of wot includes a piece of injera, which is gluten free and contains nutrients like quinoa. Injera is a thin (but not too thin) spongey flatbread and acts like a utensil. All the wots are spread on an injera which is used like a plate, and pieces from another piece of flatbread are ripped off to grab the food with.

We ordered three types of wots for the two of us and the owner offered to spread the stews on the injera, but I declined because I wanted to take photos. The spongy injera is very tart and contrasts with the rich and spicy stews. There is a heavy sourdough flavour and the injera tastes very fresh. The injera also looks paler than the photos, despite the appearance.

I remember having dinner at a classmate's home during my SFU years, where her mother prepared an Ethiopian meal. Her mother explained that Doro Wot is an important stew because people judge the woman of the household based on it. She further explained that if the Doro Wot is poorly prepared, it is one of those neighbourhood gossips where people would think, *gasp* "how was she raised?". So ever since then, Doro Wot is a must order for me.

QEY DORO WOT, "A hearty spicy stew made from fresh chicken and sautéed red onions. Seasoned with chilli pepper (berbere) and flavoured with garlic, ginger and various herbs. Doro Wot always has boiled eggs in it. This is our signature Ethiopian dish" ($14.00).
Rating: 3.5/5.
The Doro Wot is the most flavourful stew out of the few we ordered. There are plenty of spices, a rich taste and consistency, and a medium level of spiciness. As for the highlights, a drumstick and an egg, the "proper" way of eating them would be to grab pieces off with the injera. However, we used the spoon to break the pieces apart. The chicken tastes very tender and flavourful, making me wish I had rice to soak up all the juices!

YE DINCH WOT BESSEGA, "A hearty gumbo of potatoes cooked with lean tender beef and seasoned with different spices" ($14.00).
Rating: 3/5.
The following stew is the Ye Dinch Wot Bessega, which is not as good as the Doro Wot. The beef tastes dry along with stringy, and not tasteful. We surprisingly did not mind so much however, because the stew itself is rich and flavourful. The beef stew is also the least spiciest of all the wots, consisting of only a mild spiciness.

FISH ASA WOT, "Fresh fish cooked with onion, pepper and spices" ($14.00).
Rating: 3.5/5.
Lalibela uses dehydrated fish and it does not compromise the taste one bit. The fish tastes tender and flaky, and the stew is slightly spicier than the beef wot. Also similar to the previous wots, the Fish Asa is full of flavour and has a good consistency. But one injera is usually the most I can have before my tastebuds start rejecting the flavour and I really wanted rice to soak up the stews! Injera does not make me "full" too, so I left hungry lol.

TOTAL: $43.50 + TIP $6.50 = $50.00

Lalibela serves authentic Ethiopian cuisine and the food is not North Americanized. None of the wots are aggressively seasoned too, which I consider important when having Ethiopian food. As for the injera, it is an acquired taste but I really like how the tanginess contrasts with the rich stews. I will probably request for all the dishes to be spicier next time too.

- Flavourful wots
- Very clean restaurant
- Humble owners and family

- Beef was dry and stringy
- Service is relaxed (which we were fine with)

Food: 3.5/5
Service: 3.5/5

Lalibela Ethiopian on Urbanspoon

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