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Mar 26, 2008 07:05 PM

Magdala / Mekdala Ethiopian Resto Lounge.

Have you ever asked yourself whatit would be like if your favourite hole in the wall mom & pop restaurant was turned into a trendy resto-lounge? Me neither, until today.

The good news:
The food of Messob D'Or is back, and just as good as ever. Actually, there is a little more variety on Magdala's menu than was ever at Messob D'Or, but the purpose of my trip was to see if one of my favourite restos had indeed risen from the dead, so we ordered only dishes that used to be on Messob's menu.
The chef is indeed the same as at the old resto, (he recognized me, and came over to say hi.) though I'm not sure if he's owner or even part owner of this new venture. One dish, the tibs, was very different than it's equivalent at Messob, but was still quite tasty. The shiro wat was exactly the same, which made me quite happy, as it was my favourite dish. The doro wat was a little milder than I would have liked, but was still very flavourful, and in all other respects just like Messob's. The decor was very nice, beautiful, in fact. Lots of wood, and you have the choice of sitting around a messob on low hand carved stools, or at a normal table with comfy leather chairs.
Service was very friendly, if a little bit intrusive. Which brings me to...

The bad news:
Service was very friendly, but very casual. We knew a good chunk of the waitress' life story by the time we left. For me and my friends, all in our mid-late 20s, it was fine, but I could see how some would be put off by it. The real problem was that our server didn't really know anything about Ethiopian food. We knew what we wanted, so not a problem, but it easily could have been. We were all expecting to have Ethiopian style coffee to finish off our meal, but were informed that it was only really available Fri-Sat-Sun when they do a full coffee ceremony / show. We were told that we could still have a pot, but that it wouldn't be fresh roasted, just regular coffee beans. We were warned, but still ordered, and were only mildly disappointed. One last little gripe: No Wet Naps were provided at the end of the meal, and they were skimpy with the napkins. A small detail, but kind of important when you've been eating with your hands.

All in all I'd say I came away with a favourable impression, and probably would have "really" liked the place if I wasn't still pining for Messob D'or. A lot of their little issues will probably get worked out over time. I'm a little dissapointed, but this place definitely beats the pants off Nil Bleu.

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  1. Thanks for the info. I was disappointed that I never got to try Messob, so I'll be checking this place out soon.

    1. This the place?

      Magdala Restaurant Lounge
      1222, rue Bishop, Montréal, QC H3G 2E3
      Telephone : 514-866-7667

      I'm still pining for the Messob d'or too. Good to hear the chef's still around.

      1 Reply
      1. re: carswell

        Oops, yeah, I forgot to include the address. Thanks Carswell.

        P.S. They use two different spellings of the name. One on the sign outside, a different one on the menu.

      2. This is great news! I was completely addicted to the Messob (so much so that I formed a Facebook group about it: can't paste the link here so just search for Messob d'or on Facebook and you will find it). I managed to stay faithful to the Belachew's amazing food and haven't gone to the Nile Bleu in the interim but I was seriously experiencing withdrawal. I will go check out the new place tomorrow and let you know how it compares to the old place.

        Thank you so much for posting this :-D

        1. So my DH and I checked out the restaurant yesterday and the Teshome Belachew's food is still absolutely amazing!!!

          The restaurant still has to tweak stuff a bit, notably the name of the restaurant which appears on different items as Magdala, Meqdella and Mekdella. They still don't have a sign outside so you need to know the address (1222 Bishop) and the wait staff, as Moosemeat reported, is so far clueless about the food (or how to operate a Visa machine) but hopefully that will change in time.

          The menu will also change in the coming month so we have to wait a bit for things to reach equilibrium. For example Bouticha (the chick pea salad which looks like egg salas) is absent though Teshome says it will be added soon. Also the Lega Tibs on the menu only appears as being made with beef when lamb is also available upon request. Basically I would not be afraid to ask if you want something that used to be on the Messob's menu but appears differently here.

          There are a lot of new items that did not exist on the Messob's menu, notably apetizers. We tried the fitfit which is an injera based salad (injera, tomatoes, peppers, some type of vinegar and spices). We didn't try anything else new because we were too desperate to have the usual favorites after nearly a year of severe withdrawal.

          In addition to the fitfit apetizer, we had the following dishes which were all up to the Messob's standards:

          Kitfo, Key (Sega) Wat, (Ye)messer Wat, Azifa, Bouticha, Minchet'Abish, Gomen, Lega tibs (lamb version), the yellow pea stew and the mixed veggies.

          They now have very interesting combination dishes which are perfect when you go only 1 or 2 people and want to sample a bit of everything.

          The manager said that they hope to open for lunch to in a couple of months and basically be open from noon to midnight from Tuesday to Sunday (yes it seems that once again it will be closed on Sundays). They are also hoping to get the bar/lounge thing going. Take out is available and they are also working on getting some kind of delivery going too.

          The setting is much more upscale than the Messob was. Over half the restaurant has Messobs and comfy armchairs that come directly from Ethiopia although there are also regular Western tables for those who prefer that. The bathrooms are quite funky with glass sink and frosted glass stalls. They were also spotless when we visited.

          The kitchen is an open kitchen toward the back. If you stand on the stairs to the second floor you can easily see them preparing the food which is quite neat.

          All in all a very positive experience!

          2 Replies
          1. re: Topaz3333

            Very excellent report Topaz3333! I will have to visit soon!

            Can I get a rough idea of the cost for 2 people?

            1. re: moh

              I would estimate cost at around $15 per person, you could probably eat a little cheaper, or spend a little more, depending on what you ordered. Like Messob D'Or they had a few "combo plates" , probably enough for two people, and only around $15 (so $7pp).

          2. We tried the place a few nights ago and had a mixed experience. Most of the vegetable dishes lacked some complexity, but the doro wat was pretty good. Like Moosemeat, I would have preferred it a little hotter, but other than that it was very satisfying. The injera looked a much lighter than what I have previously had (many many times if you are wondering, I am an Ethiopian food junkie) perhaps the ratio of teff to other types of flours were reduced?

            Service was odd. One minute they would be all around us, another they would disappear for 15 minutes, with us desperately trying to find someone to ask for more injera. The server (perhaps the same one that Moosemeat had), was clueless. He kept messing things up and even asked whether we liked their food better than Nil Bleu (umm, first the question is inappropriate, second it is presumptuous: why would one assume that we have also gone there?). He looked very inexperienced but it wasn't a nightmare for us; however perhaps one shouldn't rely on a rookie when they have just opened. I think it was a bad move for a restaurant. The owner was also around too, he was very busy correcting the messups of the server. He was very nice and I hope that he can overcome these glitches.

            Overall, not a bad experience, but having eaten Ethiopian food in the DC area, I don't think I will crave for this version. But I need to be realistic, this is Montreal and it is not known for Ethiopian food; and to be fair Magdala one of the better Ethiopian restaurants I have tried elsewhere (just don't compare it with cab driver joints in DC). So once in a while, I will have some; on the other hand my partner is too spoiled with the DC area working-class Ethiopian food scene, so he is just looking forward to his next trip down the border.

            1 Reply
            1. re: emerilcantcook

              Went there again with a bunch of friends last week. This time it was much better. Although I'd still prefer it a little bit spicier, the food was much more complex.

              They also have new staff that are much pleasant and know what they are talking about.