You really know your geography if you can place Ethiopia’s location in Africa without cheating. It is near the Red Sea and bordered by a number of countries including Somalia, Eritrea, Kenya, Sudan and Djibouti. No matter if you don’t know its geographical locale, as you can get a taste of Ethiopia at Fassil Restaurant.
Located on the south side of East Broadway just east of Fraser Street. If you love to eat with your hands and enjoy tasty cuisine, then you will want to make the visit. You will be warmly greeted by knowledgeable and informative servers and/or the owner. Below is the owner/chef Deresse Lekyelebet with a platter of meat and vegetables.
Fassil Restaurant has been in existence for 23 years, owned by Deresse for almost eight years. It might be hard to believe, but there are a number of Ethiopian restaurants located in Vancouver. In fact, there is another Ethiopian restaurant just one block away. There must be something to this cuisine as it seems to have attracted such a loyal following.
Ethiopian cuisine characteristically consists of vegetables and often very spicy meat dishes, usually in the form of wot (thick stew) and served atop injera (Ethiopian bread). Deresse confirmed that Ethiopian cooking styles and practices are dramatically different from the neighbouring countries.
His restaurant uses Berbere which is a combination of powdered chili pepper and other spices. All seasonings and supplies originate from his birth country of Ethiopia. For certain, many vegetarians are attracted to Ethiopian restaurants given their ability to properly season and prepare their vegetables to be as tasty and interesting as possible.
The first order was the home-made Honey Wine. This is made with water, honey and hops. Definitely, a sweet taste dominated by the honey flavouring. You cannot taste the alcohol. It is brownish in colour and more like mead wine. Highly recommended to pair with your meal as it assists with the spiciness of the food. If you were in Ethiopia and had some money, the honey wine would be your dessert.
Ethiopians use their native bread called injera as a utensil. Injera is a yeast-risen flatbread with an interesting spongy texture. Deresse uses an iron-rich grain called teff and buckwheat for flavouring and colour. It is spongy and very filling with a neutral taste as it is only a tool to actually pick up the food.
There is a technique for using the injera bread. We were taught by the server to pick up the roll with the left hand and pull off strips with the right hand. You then take the strip with your dominant hand and pick up the vegetables or meat or whatever you are eating. There are no forks, spoons or knives.
Whatever you order off the menu is delivered in one huge platter for the entire table. This means you are all eating from the same platter, communal eating style. In addition, the vegetables and meats are on top of more injera. This injera soaks up all the flavours and would be used when you are trying to finish your meal. Be careful with the rolled up injera as it is quite filling.
Our platter consisted of five vegetables on the perimeter and beef and chicken in the middle. Clockwise from the spinach was split lentils (misr wot), split peas (kik wot), chick peas (shrowot) and cabbage carrot potato (alicha). These vegetable dishes are more like what we would call stews which makes it much easier to use the injera to pick them up. Each of the vegetable dishes were tasty and an improvement on their natural tastes. For example, the chick peas were very creamy. All of the dishes were flavoured with just the right amount of spice.
The meat dishes were beef (key wot) and chicken (doro tibs). The beef is beside the spinach and split lentils. It is a cubed beef stew simmered in red pepper sauce, onion and seasoned with ginger root, garlic and berbere. The spiciest of the dishes, but very satisfying and tasty. The chicken is tender, boneless, skinless cubed chicken breast sautéed in a special blend of spices and braised in onions, green pepper and purified butter. It was cooked perfectly, the seasonings were excellent and a huge hit with everybody.
Given the success with the chicken and beef, we requested a plate of the lamb for comparison. We had the yebeg alicha fitfit (kikel). Tender pieces of lamb with bones stewed with seasoned butter, onion, garlic and ginger with fresh jalapeño pepper and mixed with pieces of injera (of course). It was as good as it looked, another hit.
There are no appetizers or desserts in Ethiopian cuisine. Frankly, you wouldn’t have any room for dessert as the injera is quite filling. It is not expensive to eat Ethiopian food. We were very impressed with everything we ate and drank. It is a very casual and simple ambience, yet clean and welcoming. Deresse is so confident in his food that he welcomes diners to try other Ethiopian restaurants as he believes they will return for the best Ethiopian at his place. In addition, if you want gluten-free eating, you can contact the restaurant three days in advance so the injera can be made to order.
5 – 736 East Broadway
Wednesday to Monday, noon to midnight
Tuesday, 5 p.m. to midnight