Alem’s House is your opportunity to eat Ethiopian cuisine right here in the Inner West. While I highly recommend taking the trip to Blacktown, which has become a bit of a hub for the cuisine with restaurants including Gursha and Abyssina, that’s not to say you shouldn’t also feast upon the bounty of your own neighbourhood.
You’ll find the small restaurant taking up two shopfronts on Parramatta Road, at the base of a medium density residential block. Husband-and-wife team, Nethanet Assefa and Nicholas Gilmore, have made a good effort to personalise the bland, glass-fronted space, which is separated into dining room at the front, and kitchen and lounge in the rear, by an internal dividing wall.
The wall is made into a centrepiece with a colourful Camila Carmody mural celebrating African femininity, the ‘fro, and African flora in the surrounding bicolour torch lilies.
There are also Ethiopian textiles, handicrafts and photography helping to give the restaurant a strong sense of place.
While the other Ethiopian restaurants I’ve tried have offered up beef, chicken, lamb, goat and seafood dishes, Alem’s House is fully vegetarian. Animal products are not something you’ll miss however, when you order their Feast Platter ($30/head). Presented in a mesob or breadbasket, it’s a wonderful collection of stews (wots), curries, salads and sautéed dishes, served on a pliable, fermented pancake-like flatbread called injera. Made using teff, a wholegrain flour, the injera are both super easy to digest, and your cutlery for the evening. You use torn off pieces of the flatbread to scoop up the other dishes and deliver them to your waiting mouth. My only complaint with the platter is that it didn’t come with enough – but our additional rolls of Injera ($1/each) are fast to arrive.
Graze across the platter by building your own combinations with injera-wrapped golden turmeric-infused potatoes and beans (atkilt wot) dipped into the central pot of shiro wot, a creamy chickpea stew. Mushroom tibs (a dish that’s traditionally made with beef) sees silky Swiss brown slices sizzled with garlic and green chilli. They eat even better when sprinkled with mitmita, made from powdered bird’s-eye chilli, and presented on the platter in a little white pot. Everything from the mound of sautéed spinach (gomen) to the cold beetroot and potato salad, is enjoyable, though I find the suf fitfit salad dressed with roasted sunflower and flax seed sauce a bit of an acquired taste. The tomato-stuffed green chilli has a fiery bite, but it’s the only thing that’s challenging, the rest of it (including the pot of dileh chilli paste) is tasty and accessible.
While there is Ethiopian coffee available, we took advantage of the six buck charge to choose our own matching booze (wine and beer) from the nearby Camperdown Cellars. This brought our whole meal for two people just shy of seventy bucks – pretty good value for a night out in Sydney's Inner West.
132-134 Parramatta Road, Camperdown
Ph: (02) 8957 4328