Living in Delhi does have its advantages for a foodie. One of the many is the fact that foreign embassies are now beginning to open up their cultural centres to Indian citizens to give them a taste of the food they have. Italian cultural centre was the first one to start, and now the Ethiopian one has followed. And thank god they did, because otherwise, we would have been deprived of the delicious dishes they have to offer.
The restaurant is situated in a charming traditional building that houses the cultural centre in the diplomatic district. We easily drive into the four-month-old Ethiopian cultural centre and soon find our way to the restaurant which is called Blue Nile. The restaurant is a trifle boring looking unlike my expectations of finding a piece of Ethiopia in it. It has glass-topped tables and a selection of dals and whole spices under the glass (allegedly Ethiopian dals and spices but procured locally, the helpful server informs us), to give it a desi touch. I am even offered a choice of Ethiopian or Indian food by the Indian serving staff.
Thankfully, the Ethiopian food is as authentic as it can get and rather delicious. First, a basic primer on Ethiopian cuisine. As per Wikipedia, it consists of vegetable and often spicy (not so much for the Indian palate), meat dishes, usually in the form of wat, a thick stew, served atop injera, a large sourdough flatbread, which is about 50 centimeters (20 inches) in diameter and made out of fermented teff (an Ethiopian grass) flour.
A look at the menu delights my vegetarian friend who is accompanying me. Ethiopian food has a large variety of vegetarian dishes. We decide to order Beyaynetu (Rs 470; assorted vegetarian dishes served in on injera) for him. It is nice selection of dishes. There is defen mesir (black lentils cooked with Ethiopian spices), missir kik (red lentils again cooked with special spices), fosolia bekarrot (green beans and carrots), tikil gommen alicha (cabbage cooked with potato, garlic tumeric) and an amazing shiro wat (pea powder cooked a la Ethiopia).
Eager for the authentic, I order the Ethiopian national dish doro wat (chicken cooked with special chilly and onion sauce), but alas all meaty wats are off the menu today. So on the server’s suggestion, I decide to go with begg alicha (Rs 470; mutton curry cooked with onion, garlic and ginger turmeric sauce), and begg tibs (Rs 415; mutton sliced fried with garlic, onion fresh chilly). This is served with rolled injeras. The curry is so near and yet so far from our Indian curries. The mutton is served on a large marrow bone with tons of marrow peaking out of the bone. The meat is yielding and the marrow sublime. The curry has an exotic flavour, though it is not as spicy as I would have preferred. This is soon rectified when I request the friendly wait staff from some chutney – he nods his head and comes back with (what I later discover) berbere, the most popular hot and spicy spice for Ethiopian cooking. It is a blend of red chili, garlic, salt and more. The meal certainly perks up once I start using it like our own gunpowder, along with injera. Begg tibs is dry, somewhat chewy, small bits of meat cooked with slices of capsicum and onions, with an interesting taste. What really decorates the meal is the soft, fluffy (like a flat appam, though more fermented and sour) injeras. I find them most addictive, and polish the last bit mopping the mutton curry with it.
Ethiopian cuisine is not too hot on desserts, and what the restaurant has to offer are the clichéd Indian sweets. So we both decide to go for the other specialty, freshly roasted Ethiopian coffee. It is an espresso made out of Arabica coffee, served in a china cup without handles with sugar and, cold popcorn. Though surprised at first, I realize soon that it is a great combination. A warm glow of happiness sets in as we silently sip the coffee and munch the popcorn. A glow that any foodie will recognize as the result of having had a fine meal.
So go on, have a meal of a cup of coffee with friends at the Blue Nile. Chances are that you will love it for its slice of exotica.
Ratings out of 5:
Food: 4.0 | Ambience: 3.5 | Service: 4.5 | Overall: 4.0
Meal for two: Rs. 1000| Alcohol: Yes | Credit Card: Yes | Timings: 12 noon to 3 PM, 6 PM to 10 PM| Address: 7/50, G Niti Marg (near Nehru Park), Chanakya Puri, New Delhi | Telephone: 24673654