Cafe Lalibela [Footscray]
- haynes Oct 2, 2010 08:09 PM
I make a practice of asking local cabbies where they're from and where I can find their native food whenever I'm in a cab. Recently in Melbourne I had an Eritrean cabbie who suggested I go to Footscray. I had no idea how big the Ethiopian/Eritrean presence was there, but we recently headed out there to check out the Footscray Savers, and decided to stop in Cafe Lalibela which is right around the corner.
It was amazing. The menu had all your standard dishes, Doro Wat, Derek Tibs, Shiro and kitfo, all with injera. But there were two things I hadn't seen before - dulet, an Ethiopian offal dish made with "freshly hand minced lamb topside, liver and tripe, marinated with herbs and spices" that is only available on weekends and St. George's beer, an Ethiopian lager imported by Cafe Lalibela themselves.
So of course we ordered dulet, and kitfo and a St. George's. They brought a platter with two injera on it for the two of us and put the dulet and kitfo (with accompanying crumbled white goat cheese) on it. As is traditional there were no utensils other than the injera.
The kitfo was a fine example of the art, finely minced raw lean beef liberally seasoned with niter kibbeh and chilis. I was most interested in the dulet, since we'd never had it before and we're both bit fans of offal. It had a mild lamby flavor with a flavor of liver that didn't overwhelm the other flavors. The texture was smooth and slightly soft, with a good heat.
The St. Georges on the other hand was a pretty ordinary light lager. Similar to others you can find all over the world, notable only because it came from Ethiopia. On the other hand it went well with the food, and was the same price as the local beers, so I'll stick with it when we visit. They do allow BYO wine, and that might be a better alternative. I'd suggest a dry red that can stand up to spices, and has a bit of acidity to cut through the niter kibbeh.
The only quibbles I might have are that the injera is made with wheat flour not teff, and there isn't any tej. I can't really fault them for that though, as far as I can tell neither teff nor tej are available in Australia - though i'd be pleased to learn otherwise.
In any case, I'm overjoyed to find such good Ethiopian! We'll definitely be back.