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Monday, 8 October 2012

Nigist Ethiopian Restaurant - Wondering Where the Lions Are

My first experience with Ethiopian food was in Toronto at Queen of Sheba. How I'd pour over my Toronto Life food guides and fantasize about which restaurant I'd visit on my next excursion from idyllic Peterborough to fiercely metropolitan T.O. How delighted I was to discover Edmonton was home to several Ethiopian eateries. Nigist, hidden away on 118 Ave west of 124 St, is one of my favourites.

I've been there a few times and am always bemused by the decor. There used to be a painting of a tiger on the wall. A bit of an eyebrow-raiser, given that tigers are not at all part of African megafauna.

I don't go there for zoological enlightenment - I go for the food. The owner is immensely knowledgeable and glad to cast insight into exotically-named dishes. We end up ordering a large platter of various dishes (and there are plenty of vegetarian options for those who eschew meat). We work our way, counterclockwise, around the injera-lined platter. Several firey dishes of red lentils have a cumulative but well-rounded bite. Morsels of tomato salad, picked up with prerequisite injera, tame the fires. Split green and yellow peas are toothsome and luscious; their creamy texture is entirely welcome and admirable. Beef tibs (in the centre of the photo) is a hallmark Ethiopian dish, and features beautifully tender morsels kissed with hot peppers. The beef is sweet at first but crescendos into an impressive but not unmanageable fire.

Be aware that a meal at Nigist will take quite a while - expect at least a 45 minute wait until your food arrives. Some things, like the nuances of spices, simply cannot be rushed. And if you're looking for the tiger painting, it's gone. Pity. I wish they'd replaced it a lion painting. I'm wondering where the lions are.

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