358 Victoria St
North Melbourne, VIC 3051
03 9329 8018
Little Africa is actually located right opposite Common Ground Coffee and a few doors away from Pho Victoria. But the overall muted lighting plus the pavement awning in front of the restaurant makes it hard to locate even after I’ve walked and driven past it so many times.
The snug little eatery has a 6pm and 8pm seating, and you might want to know that it’s also cash only. Way before this convivial Autumnal dinner, I’d strategically asked that we eat here because Lauren’s a lot more familiar with Ethiopian food. Having a food tutor at the table is just the best!
And look…. African beers! They’re priced at $6 a bottle and I was quite fascinated by the unique looking labels. My malt beer (in the centre) had a nice sweet floral note to it, making it an easy re-introduction to beers since I’d actually been consuming apple ciders with Fatbee all of this Summer.
Chai, with Kammam $3
And here’s Fatbee’s aromatic milk-free chai tea, rife with star anise, cloves and cardamom. He was still nursing a head cold that night and had to avoid alcohol.
We toyed with the idea of just going with the nicely planned-out set menu, but since there were five of us, Lauren decided that we actually had enough critical mass to go a la carte and order the dishes that we’d actually want to try (at a cheaper price to boot!).
After much chatting, our food finally arrived, covered in a beautiful conical wicker ‘hat’.
Fool: Fava beans, cooked until tender mashed then mixed with ghee butter and seasoning (lemon juice & cumin) topped with green chilli, onions and tomato $13
Dorho Aletcha: Cubes of chicken breast marinated & sautéed with spices onions and peppers $18
Kulwah (tibs): Strips of marinated lamb sautéed & cooked with tomato onions green pepper and spices $17
And *POW*… here we have it… an Ethiopian culinary feast for five! As much as we’d like to go traditional and use our hands, we ended up asking for plates and cutlery to eat with, to which our waiter happily obliged. They’ve made things a little easier here as well by putting the main dishes into serving bowls rather than plonking everything onto the giant platter of injera itself. I still have fond memories of my intimidating meal at The Abyssinian where were had to navigate our way around the curries and injeras with our bare fingers.
The two bowls in the foreground of this photo consisted of the mashed fava beans and aletcha chicken. The beans were rather delightfully seasoned and spiced… it made for a very good (albeit heavy) dipping sauce for the fluffy injeras. The dorho aletcha chicken dish was also pretty nice, with tender succulent pieces chicken in unfamiliar but delightful spices.
In the background on the right (out of focus, sorry!), was my favourite dish for the evening, the kulwah lamb tibs. It came as little perky morsels of lamb with a moreish dry sauce that was on the tangy side.
Asa Zighini: Cubes of fish cooked in a berbere sauce & mixed spices $20
Cabbage: Cabbages & Carrots cooked in a beautiful turmeric sauce $15
I swivelled the platter to take a snap of the other dishes but obviously did not swivel all that accurately, missing out on the lamb dish. But on the left, you’re seeing a much welcomed dish of cabbage and carrots marinated in turmeric sauce. And next to it was the one dish that we weren’t as keen on, soft-bouncy fish fillets in a dry berbere sauce that was rather mild.
The injeras deserve honourable mention too. To be honest, I’m a fan of African cuisine mainly because of these delightful pillowy injeras. The closest that I can describe it is… it’s like a soft, fluffed up sourdough hotcake with the resilient pull-like texture of crepes.
So very yummy, and the piquant nature of these Ethiopian flatbreads helps cut through the richness and the oils from the curries a lot. But one word of warning, they’re great to eat, but they have the habit of swelling up in your belly retrospectively, making you feel full quite quickly.
Here’s our demolished platter… I think we did a pretty good job.
That’s the end of our veritable feast. Lauren commented that the dishes in general were quite oily compared to the last time she dined here, and Fatbee thought that the flavours may possibly have been toned down a notch to suit the Australian palate. But all the same, I enjoyed this meal. With a drink each, we paid $22 per person, so it’s priced pretty nicely too!