Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Habesha Afro Cuisine, Underdale by Big Fil

Habesha was one of Hungry Pete's recommendations, somewhere that's been around for a few months now and that he and Red eat at regularly. All I can say is this was my favourite place we tried during my week in Adelaide and I can't imagine why it hasn't been adopted by all the locals yet.

Admittedly the set up is fairly basic. In some ways it feels more like the local social club than a café or restaurant. The first room contains a number of metal tables and chairs which seemed to be used mainly by people drinking coffee. The room next door is given over more to people coming in for a meal, a bit quieter and the tables a bit further spread apart. It's not fancy but I think it suits the mood of this eatery perfectly. There is nothing pretentious about it but it's casual and comfortable, somewhere to relax and enjoy generous helpings of delicious food.

The food here is eaten without cutlery except for the communal serving spoons. Instead a spongy, slightly sour bread called injera takes the place of both plate and fork. You tear off a piece of the injera, ladle on an appropriate amount of food from the communal bowl, wrap the bread up so you don't spill it everywhere, insert in mouth and chew.

The food here is very good, with the rich earthy flavours you'd expect of slow home cooked meals. On our first visit we tried three dishes, the Yemisir Wot, the Lamb Tibs and the Doro Wot.

Yesimir Wot (Wot means that it will be a stewed dish) is a vegetarian dish made up or red lentils, with garlic and cardamom in a red pepper sauce. I have an issue with vegetarian dishes being bland or uninteresting but this was a lovely golden red colour, warming and filling.

The Lamb Tibs (sautéed lamb) came with nicely flavoured lamb, the lamb having a slightly chewy texture but not the jaw workout this dish can be. Actually thinking about it the best way I can describe it is kind of like beef bulgogi in texture. I thought this was a good version of the dish.

My favourite though would have had to have been the Doro Wot (stewed chicken). Dark in colour with a moderately spicy sauce, containing three or so pieces of fall off the bone tender chicken and two hard boiled eggs (so you don't need to arm wrestle to get one). To me it tastes similar to some Indian dishes but with much more depth of flavour than you get with your typical takeaway.

On our return visit the next night (yes, we did like it that much) the three of us went for the combination vegetarian meal and a serve of the doro wot. Only $25 and really more than enough food for the three of us.

A great local café with a few quirks. I suspect that it's a one woman operation with the woman who is doing the serving also doing all the cooking so service can be a little slow. In fact on the first night, when we were sitting in the side room, one of the other café patrons brought us the menus because they could see that the woman was busy out the back (it's kind of homey that way). We always seemed to not have quite enough bread but more was brought out if you asked. However when we did so as a nice surprise it was still warm having just been made.

A real local gem of a place with character.

Food - 8
Service - 6.5
Ambience - 7
Price - 8.5

329-331 Henley Beach Road
Underdale SA 5032
Tel: (08) 8354 4047

Habesha Afro Cuisine on Urbanspoon

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