Nunu Ethiopian Restaurant

Posted on May 9, 2011

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Maybe it’s my curiosity why the competitors on Top Chef Canada got so worried about trying their flare on Ethiopian cuisine that I said yes without much of a thought when a client, Steve,  suggested it last week after a shoot.  I have no faint idea whether the food would be bland, spicy, heavy or light.  No inkling about what I am in for gets me quite excited.  One thing I learned after trying different cuisines,  there is always a signature dish.  All I have to do is to zero in which one it would be.

We walk in Nunu’s (1178 Queen Street West) and I catch a waft of incense.  Contemporary in design, one wall has a booth stretching from the floor-to-ceiling glass windows to the bar.  Generously stuffed with pillows, my initial instinct was to slide into the cozy booth.  I hesitated as the neurotic photographer in me didn’t see good lighting where the booths are.  Ah well, I seat myself on a chair.  So are the sacrifices that you do when you blog about the food you eat :p

A warm and pleasant woman hands us a simple, straightforward menu.  I like it when a restaurant has a focused identity and serve their food the way they would eat it at their homes.  It gives me that pleasure of being transported into a new culture.  Kind of like that curious, excited feeling you get the moment you disembark off a plane in another new country you have never been before.  Looking up and down the menu, I take note of the variety of dishes and I decided on the best choice.  Since I want to taste as much as I could, best item on the menu for a beginner would be Misto Meat.  Misto meat comes with portions of the restaurant’s best meat dishes served on top of a flat bread called injera.  Steve assured me the serving would be more than enough.  He also said that even though it is often more than what he needs, the food is too delicious to leave anything behind.

When the waitress came back, I found out that four out of the five people in my company ordered the same thing as me.  So I am surprised with another Ethiopian tradition.  When dining the traditional Ethiopian way, food is served in a big platter and shared between diners.  I later read that this tradition fosters conversation between friends and family as you break off pieces of injera by hand to scoop  stewed meat and vegetables from the shared platter.  I am enjoying this more and more seeing some parallels  between Ethiopian cuisine to my culture.  I have fond childhood memories of being with my grandmother in the beaches of Tangub City, sharing and eating steaming rice and an assortment of viands using my hands.

The wait was not long and the food arrived.  Such deep flavors of the stewed meat tells me that the food I am eating was not a flash-in-the-pan preparation.  A piece of a chicken readily falls off the bone with a little tug.   The injera was tasty on its own (I probably would be equally happy if someone just gives me just injera alone).  The spice was there to give you that interesting zing but not to burn.  A refreshing salad of caramelized onions, radicchio, cherry tomatoes and lettuce was a welcome break from all the meat.   Amidst listening to the politics banter over our meal, I kept a steady pace of tearing up a piece of injera and helping myself with the food.  But it seems like no matter how I kept the eating, it doesn’t seem like I put a dent on my share of the food.  Steve was right.  The serving was huge!

So for anyone who has not tried Ethiopian cuisine just yet,  don’t hesitate.  It’s GOOD food!  Start at Nunu’s.  You would not be disappointed. And yes, we cleaned up the platter ;)

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