When our eldest daughter worked for the Mennonite Central Committee, she made a number of international friends.
A particularly close friend was a lovely woman from Ethiopia who was engaged but had to leave her partner back home until immigration papers were filed. When they were finally reunited, our daughter attended her wedding and then a couple of months later, we invited everyone to our home for a celebration dinner. We were absolutely enthralled by this beautiful couple and their stories of home and their new life in Winnipeg.
Walking inside the Blue Nile was like stepping into a Moroccan tent, with rich red and gold tapestry drapes separating the dining room from the hookah smoking area. The space is soon expanding and the dining room will be designated to the hookah lounge and diners will be invited next door. The owner, who was also our server, told us with pride that they were almost finished the renovations.
We deliberated over the extensive menu for a very long time, trying to educate ourselves about wots and ayibe. Our server gave us a mini tour of the fare while referring to a large photo of a food platter. When we saw that the two of us could dine for $27, we decided to order exactly what was illustrated. We foolishly worried about not having enough to satisfy our appetites, so we also selected sambusas. These were described as thin dough shells stuffed and then lightly fried in oil and I deduced that they would be very similar to samosas and sure enough, that was exactly what they were. My husband preferred the one filled with beef, and I preferred the vegetarian triangle. It was either filled with peas or peas and lentils, I couldn’t determine which, but it didn’t matter. I knew I was going to love Ethiopian fare.
The main course arrived even before we had finished our appetizers and that was when we knew that our eyes were bigger than our tummies. The silver platter was laden with a wheel of food and textures placed upon the most unusual base of an enormous pancake that looked as if it had not been flipped over once it had cooked on one side. My husband remarked that it was as if we were eating delicious foam. The crepes are actually referred to as injera, made from an ancient grain called teff. Teff is ground into flour, fermented for three days then made into the sourish flat bread. Extra injera rolls were delivered too and we knew that protocol dictated that we would tear off little pieces to scoop up our food. We were familiar with the practice, having both travelled to the Middle East.
Like Jack Sprat and his wife, we favoured different offerings from the platter, me the salty/vinegary crunchy salad, shredded beets and gomen ( kale) and my spouse the doro wot (lemon-marinated chicken) and tender beef. We both enjoyed the yemisir wot (lentil stew), atakit wot (potatoes and carrot stew), shiro wot (dried peas stew), and gomen and ayibe (a mild and crumbly cottage cheese/feta).
Everything about our dinner was an adventure, one that we hope to repeat very soon.
Blue Nile Restaurant & Hookah Lounge
510 Sargent Ave.
Lunch, dinner and catering menu available each day of the week
Surface parking available in small adjacent lot or on the street
Kathryne Grisim’s foodmusings.ca blog was named best local blog in Uptown Magazine’s Best of Winnipeg readers’ poll.