Building upon the success of my meal at the neighbouring Abyssina Ethiopian Restaurant, I was keen to visit Blue Nile African Cuisine & Café. The mostly Ethiopian menu here is a bit bigger, also taking in Somalia, Sudan and East Africa.
The interior is a wee bit fancier too, with the walls wrapped in a willow twig fence that echoes the African thatch huts framed in pictures on the wall. Like its neighbour, Blue Nile is also a community hub, with the outside tables filled with African men socialising over coffee.
Already a fan of injera, the spongy, tart flatbread that sits underneath most Ethiopian dishes, we order Yetakelt Beainetu ($15). Boasting seven different vegetable dishes, this injera-lined platter represents remarkably good value for your spend. Sweet, pickled cabbage is fragrant, and a good counterpoint to the thick vegetable stews (w’at) that include both mildly spiced puy lentils, and a hotter, redder version. There’s also thick, paste-like shiro w’at made from black eyed and split peas, that’s delicious scraped up in a torn-off piece of injera.
In terms of greens, the platter contains a silverbeet dish (standing in for Ethiopian collard greens) called ye’abesha gomen, as well as a crisp side salad presented with extra injera in separate bowls. Being carnivores at heart, we thrown in Gored Gored ($15) a dish of beef rump steak cooked lightly in kibe (clarified butter) that’s generally served raw in Ethiopia. Using injera to pick them up, we roll these juicy steak pieces in mitmita, a red powdered spice mix that uses African bird's eye chillies, cardamom, cloves, and salt.
The East African Chicken Curry ($15.00) is gentle and full of coconut cream, and dotted with frozen green peas. It comes with a fragrant yellow bowl of coconut rice.
Both of these dishes seem slightly at odds with the land-locked Ethiopian cuisine, but they're easy to enjoy in and of themselves.
We also try Salata Tomatim Bel Daqua ($6.50), a Sudanese salad of diced tomatoes, green onions, cucumber and green chillies, that has got a rather curious dressing of peanut butter and lemon juice. Even though it’s interesting, this creamy, nutty salad is not really to my taste.
While the friendly Blue Nile staff will produce cutlery upon request, there’s something wonderful about eating with your hands in the traditional Ethiopian way. Avail yourself of the hand washing station situated in the corner of the restaurant for a pre- and post-meal cleanup - it'll help you get into the spirit of this place.
3a/115 Main Street, Blacktown
Ph: (0426) 890 404