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Dukem - review

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went with a group of 7 to Dukem for a birthday dinner last night. It's an Ethiopian restaurant at Danforth and Donlands. I'd been there a few times before with small groups. What most impressed me was the service - the host was attentive and asked the right questions to see what we knew about the cuisine and how much help we needed. We ended up getting four platters; two people ate solo dishes - I had the Awaze Tibs (beef with garlic, berber sauce, peppers); a group had the vegetarian and lamb tibs combination platter, and another trio had a bigger vegetarian combination. Unless you ask for it, the waiter will bring your group a platter with a variety of dishes and injera.

All in all I felt the restaurant had fantastic variance of dishes, nice seasoning and balance of spices, and everything was fresh. We had a house white wine and a few tiramisu - which was home made and tasty - and spent about $20-30 per person. The place has a very relaxed feeling and we spent quite a long time.

It's the only restaurant on my side of the Danforth I've so far experienced that serves consistently good food and service.

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Dukem
950 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4J 1L9, CA

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  1. I have to agree fully with this review. Dukem is by far my favourite Ethiopian restaurant and has always been consistently excellent with great service.

    3 Replies
    1. re: vorpal

      Have you been to Nazreth? I'd like to know how you think they compare. I like the food at Nazreth more, and find the service at both to be very good.

      1. re: foodyDudey

        I have been to Nazareth as well, and while I found that Nazareth offered bigger portions for the price, I preferred the food by far at Dukem: it was slightly less spicy and offered significantly more subtlety in flavouring. I also found the service more attentive: at Nazareth, I think the owner tries to run the entire restaurant by herself! It's an impressive feat and she does well given the circumstances, but the service does suffer a little because of it. My friend, though, strongly prefers Nazareth, so your mileage may vary.

        1. re: vorpal

          I understand that km's may vary. I've only eaten at each place once but liked the food at Nazareth better. I haven't been back only as I don't particularly enjoy eating without utensils.
          In case anyone was wondering why I spelt the restaurant's name as "Nazreth", it's because I remember seeing a few signs in the restaurant and outside that spelt it either "Nazret" or Nazreth". I just called to find out what is the correct spelling and the owner said the signs were incorrect, it's named after her (Nazareth).

    2. I agree. Dukem was great. My only other experience with an Ethiopian restaurant was in New York City (think it was called Ghenet) and I throughly enjoyed it. I finally got a chance to try Dukem in Toronto and found the food at Dukem to be much better. The injera (pancake/bread) was a light texture and tasted great. Three of us shared the vegetable assortment (collard greens, lentils, roasted beets, cabbage, salad, etc.) and beef tibs (like a stew) in both a spicy and mild version. All of the food was served on a large round injera pancake. The staff was very accommodating in adjusting the "heat" of the dishes to our group's range of tastes. We ended our meal with the coffee ceremony. Fantastic - and not to be missed! The smells of the freshly roasted coffee beans, the popcorn (yes, popcorn is served with the coffee!) and the incense, it's worth going to Dukem if only to enjoy the wonderful aromas! highly recommended.

      1. I went to Dukem with 5 others and it was amazing. The food was terrific the service was fabulous and the price was good, 65$ per couple including 3 or 4 drinks each.

        The server made a suggestion for two large plates with 3 dishes on each one as well as a hot plate. I was suspicious because I have had bad experiences when staff recommend a mix of food for a large table because they often pick the most expensive food on the menu. This time we got a good mix.

        What did surprise me is that we were the only people there on a Friday night. The place is really good and the service was stellar. I encourage everyone to stop by.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Kooper

          I really enjoyed my dinner at Dukem a few months ago. I thought the items on the vegetarian platter demonstrated that a lot of care was taken to preserve textures and colours to vegetables. The meat items that came in the meat combo were also tasty, though I vastly preferred the veg items. I thought the collard and beet dishes were superior to other restaurants. Spicing was complex, though less spicy in terms of heat, compared to some other places I've tried. This is not necessarily a bad thing, even though I love hot and spicy tastes. IMO, Dukem's spicing was more delicate, but complex.

          We were there on a Friday night as well, and though there were other diners, it seemed only a couple of tables besides ours were occupied at any given time. There were patrons at the bar, though. A couple were drinking beer, while others just sipped tea. They were Ethiopian and appeared to be on very friendly terms with the staff and owner. I loved that most of the other patrons were Ethiopians. I take that as a good sign, though it could mean nothing at all.

        2. Hubby and I just ate dinner at Dukem tonight....first time for me and second for hubby. I have not had Ethiopian before so don't have anything to compare it to, however loved the food and the service. Had the veggie combo and Awaze Tibs, shared both and both were great and flavour hit the spot. Also, had the coffee ceremony which was amazing. I usually don't like coffee, however coffee tasted so wonderful that I had some as well.....best coffee both of us have ever had. Service was very friendly, helpful and welcoming.

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          Dukem
          950 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4J 1L9, CA

          4 Replies
          1. re: fryerlover

            I had another great meal at Dukem on Saturday evening. The place was packed, probably due to the fact that the weather was lovely and many were out and about on the Danforth during the day. The crowds proved a real challenge to the service, which was all over the place, though always friendly. Service aside, the food was lovely. Three of us split a vegetarian combo, another combo which included a ground meat dish, chicken tibs and lamb tibs with salad, plus a full order of doro wot. The ground meat dish had a rich butter and cardamom flavour which was irresistible. The doro wat was two chicken legs and a hard cooked egg in a rich sauce that was good enough to sop up with just the injera. As always, I loved the vegetarian dishes, though the yellow split pea and green lentil dishes were a touch on the bland side. I can't get enough of the collards at Dukem. The doro tibs had rosemary in it, which brought a different dimension to the platter.

            It's a shame that the servers were so overwhelmed that night. We had a lot of trouble getting beverages throughout the meal, despite making polite requests repeatedly, and it seemed that other tables that were seated after us got served before us, though it's possible that one or more of our dishes caused our platter to take longer to prepare. Fortunately, the food more than made up for the service flaws.

            As a total aside, I'd like to comment that it is infuriating in any restaurant when a server tells you that your food will be right out or will take only another few minutes, if in truth the food is nowhere near being ready. I frequently hear those words from servers and think that the only reason they're saying that is because they know a long time has passed since our order was placed and they feel they need to acknowledge it, yet don't want to admit that it will be a while longer. I'd rather be told that the kitchen is slammed and we haven't been forgotten but that it will take a bit longer. At least that's honest. Too often I've been told that the food's on its way out of the kitchen, only to wait another 15-30 minutes. Whereas I wouldn't fault the server if the food took a great deal of time had he/she not promised that it was "coming right out", I instead do fault servers that make false promises.

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            Dukem
            950 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4J 1L9, CA

            1. re: 1sweetpea

              We ordered take out from Dukem on either Thurdsay night. I find that we enjoy the vegetarian dishes much more that the meat ones. The tibs were on the tough side but tasted fine. The ground meat dish you refer to was probably kitfo, I ordered beef kitfo and didn't like that much - way too much cardamom and much too hot for my taste buds. I'm surprised that many Canadians would like that level of hotness.

              But I will mention that I find the woman who answers the phone to take the orders very friendly and helpful, she never rushes when I order even if I have questions.

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              Dukem
              950 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4J 1L9, CA

              1. re: foodyDudey

                No, no. It wasn't kitfo. I'd had bison tartare for lunch at Le Select Bistro the same day and didn't want another raw meat dish. I believe it was called Menchet Abesh, but there was no description of the dish anywhere on the menu. It was a hot dish, so was definitely cooked. It had a very pureed texture and had a heady butter flavour, but was very mild in spicing. I like kitfo very much as well, but haven't had it at Dukem. I'm a major spice hothead, so hotness in kitfo wouldn't be an issue at all for me, though I had a dish at Lalibela once that was riddled with diced jalapenos, which completely dominated the dish. It was unpleasant. I should mention that it was a dish that also contained tripe, which isn't my fave, so I was not going to love the dish with or without the chiles.

                As for the service, everyone was kind and friendly. My real complaint is that the person who came over to ask if we'd had our order taken yet and to offer water refused to take our food order. She claimed to only be responsible for beverages. No problem. We ordered drinks from her, which took forever to arrive. Later requests for water refills or another round of beers seemed to be an issue as well. We had to ask more than once before receiving them.

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                Dukem
                950 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4J 1L9, CA

                Lalibela
                869 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6G, CA

                Le Select
                432 Wellington St W, Toronto, ON M5V1E3, CA

                1. re: 1sweetpea

                  We were also there Saturday night (my wife had a camera to take food pictures. what a nerd). We got the tail end of the rush.
                  Before we found Dukem, we'd eat at Ethiopia House. On most nights, it would take an hour to get our food.
                  At Dukem, we waited for 20 minutes (approx). That was the longest we've waited and, while we were starving, we didn't mind.
                  Service was more scattered than normal. The drinks waitress was a new girl (we're there so often that we know the staff). She made a mistake with our drink order twice, but it was clear that it was her first day of working, so we cut her some slack.
                  The food was awesome as usual. We had kitfo (rare, natch), tibs (the saucy, moist tibs) and veggie combo. There was one lentil paste that was absolutely mind blowing. First time i've had it there.

                  In the end, I gave them a Mulligan on the service.

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                  Dukem
                  950 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4J 1L9, CA