The Abyssinian

277 Racecourse Rd, Kensington
Phone: 9376 8754

It was a little bit of serendipity. Belly filling serendipity. I had to meet up with @jeroxie and @eatnik to plan an upcoming event, and the only time we could all squeeze it in was before their dinner with the @eatdrinkstagger crew at the Abyssinian. Wait, what? You guys planned a dinner at the Abyssinian without me? Oh, someone cancelled and there’s an opening at the table. Sure, I’ll come along!

So nine of us trundled down to Racecourse Road, through the insipid Melbourne drizzle, and spilled through the door into the warm, vibrant interior of the Abyssinian. After a cursory glance at the menu, we unanimously decided on the set banquet (with meat – there is a vegetarian option, but that’s not how we roll) and added a beef dish. The beef dishes contain raw beef – think beef tartare – so aren’t part of the standard banquet.

We also took the chance to sample a few of the Ethiopian beers on the menu. I recommend the St George. It’s a pretty light style beer, which goes well with the mild curries served up here.

As there were nine of us, we were presented with three huge platters, each lined with injera – an African flatbread which has the spongy texture somewhere between a pancake and a crepe. Injera has lots of little bubbly holes in the surface, which makes it especially great for slopping up the sauces of the stews and lentils with which it’s served. There’s also a great little tang to the injera itself.

The injera comes topped with the various stews and curries that it is the accompaniment for. From the top, clockwise: braised vegetables, goat, lentils, chicken, beans, fish, more lentils, lamb. @jeroxie commented on the incredibly low overheads for the restaurant, as the way you attack such a huge share dish is with your hands! So no washing up of cutlery, and we were provided with little paper plates.

I love this style of communal eating. There’s something about sharing food and diving in unadulterated by cutlery that just seems so much more personal and close than even sharing dishes at your local Chinese restaurant. I guess it’s got something to do with the fact that you’re counting on each other to have clean hands? Nothing like an implicit contract of hygiene to bring people closer together.

Each of the stews were good in their own right, but my favourites were definitely the curried chicken stew (very similar to a Malaysian curry, funnily enough, but without the strong coconut milk presence) and the darker version of the lentils. They had quite an great kick to them, where the yellow lentils were a lot more mild.

The beef dish was someting of a disappointment. I was expecting an intense, raw beefiness to hit me when I put it in my mouth – I’m a fan of rare/raw beef, for those of you who don’t know about my yukke and pho obsessions – but the beef seemed to have been somehow tempered with salt and oil. It seemed less raw and almost a little bit cured. Not altogether unpleasant, but definitely not what I was expecting.
In a mammoth team effort, @jeroxie, @th0i3 and I managed to finish our platter. Then we groaned about our full bellies for a couple of minutes, before @th0i3 and I ordered the ‘cream caramel’ for dessert.
Yeah, I was a little bit dubious about creme caramel being served as a dessert at an African restaurant – we used to serve a packet one at our restaurant in Swan Hill – but the yearning for something sweet to finish off the meal was too great. It came out, and after one spoonful, I knew I was not going to leave any of that deliciousness in the bowl once I was done.

I’d definitely recommend you head down to the Abyssinian if you haven’t been there yet. Head down with a group of your besties, and feast it up. Just make sure you wash your hands beforehand!

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