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Am a contradiction of sorts. i love going out and having a good time with friends, and i can also stay home chill out over a book or a movie.. Am very passionate about writing, so give me a topic and watch me float away into wonderland... I Am crazy about music,books,friends and my doggie... :)

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Abyssinian, Chennai

Being a travel buff, the minute I come upon a country I am not quite familiar with, I instantly start reading up on it. This is exactly what I did when I heard of Abyssinian, the new Ethiopian restaurant that had opened doors in the city. Incidentally, Ethiopia was once called Abyssinia and that is how the restaurant earned its name as well.

Situated in the same building as two other restaurants- Meena Tai [Maharashtrian restaurant] and Batlivala & Khanabhoy[the Parsi restaurant], this is the 3rd restaurant from the brother’s duo Uday Balaji and Vikram Mohan of VM Hospitality.   While chatting with Uday, I came to know they have a test kitchen in Coimbatore where all recipes are tried out. Infact, they set up a farm to grow the Ethiopian grain, Teff but are also exploring other venues to make this happen. When I enquired about how easy or difficult the journey of establishing the restaurant has been, Uday shared the issues they face in bringing in the ingredients, the hassles with customs and other such concerns, which is why it took as long as it did for the restaurant to launch.

Since India and Ethiopia have strong connections from the past, especially with reference to Spices, it comes as no surprise that the cuisines are quite similar as well. The first thing you notice when you step into Abyssinian is the space, there are just four tables, but it adds to the charm. The walls are adorned with traditional Ethiopian musical instruments and scripts, not to forget the quirky the light fittings. The seating is low- chairs and stools and the center table is meant for the platter.  Their menu is quite extensive; all dishes are given their original name with a description to help us understand. They also have a glossary, which helps make sense of what we are served. J

We were there for lunch and it so happened all 4 of us were vegetarians. The eating style in Ethiopia is community style and so you eat from a single plate. This was taking the phrase “a family that eats together stays together” to a whole another level.

Our meal began with Thej, the official drink of this land. Made with nothing but honey, sugar and water, it is allowed to ferment a bit before being served. It was tad pungent but quite nice, and not too sweet.  Next up was a plate with Mandasi [resembles our bonda] but with strong ajwain & garlic flavours and it was served with Abe [coriander green chilli dip].

While we were busy polishing these off, we were served the sou - 'Adengare Shorba' - kidney beans that had been cooked with onion and tomato. It was light and simple. 

The staple from this region is Injera- the traditional bread of sorts that is eaten by all. There is no rice in this region [hallelujah, my kinda place].. Injera is made with a grain called Teffa [ which the restaurant is trying to source, but until then Injera is made using Ragi and rice- two variations] . if I were to explain it to you, it is similar to our dosa except it feels steamed.

The plate arrived at our table and there were two big pieces of Injera at the bottom and small rolls of Injera for each of us. And then came the side dishes, I lost count after 4.. Was happy to note they had quite a range of vegetarian options.

We were served
Dinch Wot- curried potato simmered with berbere, garlic and spices – this was a big hit, loved the flavours.
Yedinich Alicha - a stew of potatoes and carrots with onions,fresh garlic, ginger and turmeric. It was semi dry and simple in terms of flavours.
Yatakilt Wot- curried vegetable stew of cauliflower, potatoes, carrot, cabbage, beans with onions and berebere- loved this one as well. 
Yeduba Wot - curried pumpkin simmered with red onions, berebere, garlic and spices – Since I love yellow pumpkin, I enjoyed this one as well.
Indubay Tibs - mushroom sauteed with onions, chilli peppers, tomato and rosemary. Reminded me of the sauté I do at home. 
 Fir Fir - pieces of injera tossed with onions, garlic, berebere paste and Ethiopian Spiced butter- wasn’t a big fan of this, but it kinda resembles the kothu parotta.- this is typically served at Breakfast.
Shiro - powdered chickpeas stew flavored with onions, garlic and peppers- it was mushy and runny like our daal
Azifa – guessing I got the name right- It was a daal of sorts that had brown lentils that had been cooked down with spices and was quite delicious.

Apart from the main dishes, we had three sides that added a nice touch to the side dishes.
Ayib - plain crumbled cottage cheese that added creaminess to dishes. 
Mitmita  - cottage cheese with quit a hit of heat [with a local birds eye chilli, cardomon seeds and salt]
Awaze- This was a sauce made with Berebere and olive oil. It was a hot sauce that you add to increase the heat factor in any of the dishes

Phew, now those names are quite the challenge to remember, right?! That is the joy of trying something new and out of your comfort zone.

We weren’t done yet, now came the trio of desserts - 
Kita- Fried Ethiopian Flat bread with honey- this was a big dry for my liking.
Nech Azmud cake- Soft olive oil cakes made with ajwain and served with liberal amounts of honey. It contains egg [quite strong flavour as well] – one of those desserts that you eat a few bites and are done.
Sweet Sambussa- the winner among the desserts- Friend flat bread parcels of sweetened carrots, dates and nuts served with honey – Loved this one…

And to bring the meal to the close came the infamous Ethiopian Coffee that was served with a bowl of salted popcorn. Yep, you read it right. That is how Ethiopians wind up their meal. The coffee is served black into small cups, and you can either have it as it is or add some spiced butter and salt to enhance the taste. I tried both and loved them equally. The butter and salt adds a bit of warmth and cuts the bitterness. 

Oh what a fabulous afternoon it had been. An experience like no other I can say with confidence. I had shared a few pictures during the lunch and was amazed to see that a few friends have tried Ethiopian food across the world and were quite excited we had one option in Chennai and then there were those who wanted to be taken here for a treat… J

One other thing I must tell you is they are planning on introducing an afternoon coffee session where you could be privy to tales about their coffee brewing tradition or just some history about the place and people. Keep a look out for these events.

We were very impressed with the level of knowledge possessed by Eswar, the staff who took care of us through the meal. it apparently took him 3 months to master the names of dishes but he was phenomenal when it came to answering our questions and explaining the dishes. 

If you were to go for the Messob, which is this community style eating and are a group of 4 vegetarians, it would cost you Rs3399 . The restaurant also has tasting plates, curated with a combination of dishes. 

40, Maharaja Surya Road, Venus Colony, Alwarpet, Chennai- 18
[Take right at the end of Kasturi Rangan Road, drive past Tangerine and you will spot this on the right]

Dial 044 42082809 for reservations. 

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The reviews posted on this blog are based on my personal experience. Also remember that restaurants and eat outs sometimes change with time, so does their food and service. So, kindly consider these factors while visiting the places. Remember, no two palates are the same. Bon Appétit  :-)

1 comment:

Sprinkle some flavours so I'll know you were here!