Trying a new cuisine is sort of like Christmas morning for the bears. We get all giddy with excitement as novel dishes get placed in front of us. And, because we know the experience is going to create a few new synapses in our brains; and it’s those pioneering moments in life that put a notch in your memory and a smile on your face in years to come. Ahhh, and now Nyala African is firmly supplanted in the ol’ noggins’ filing cabinet, under “A” for African food.
One must go with determination to this eatery because you’d otherwise walk passed the open door with its nondescript staircase winding up to the first floor. A couple of token African images and decor give a hint of what’s to come as you ascend, then upon reaching the dining room, the high ceilings and tall windows give one that wide open, free feeling. The decor is tasteful, not overpowering; the music soft; the service smiling and accommodating. No, you’re not on the Serengeti, but hey – what do you expect? We’re on Brunswick Street! 🙂
What better way to try a new cuisine than get the mixed combo of everything, right? Right! And that’s exactly what we ended up doing! So, we opened our bottle of wine (FYI – they do serve African wine and beer there), and ordered the Mixed Combo ($14) as our entree, which comprised of 4 items of your choice plus some Mahloul, a sort of mountain bread that was paper thin and perfect for the course.
We got the battered and deep fried Abeba Gomen, which is Ethiopian for ‘cauliflower’. It was very reminiscent of Indian Gobi Pakora, excepting it didn’t have a whole lot of flavour. But it did work well when mixed with the dips and Mahlou. As for the dips, we had the Ful, which were spiced fava beans, Deberja which is eggplant, and a very hot & spicy dollop of Lentils. Be warned – those little lentil buggers were tasty but hot, spicy, and tummy burning.
Hubby bear went on a carnivorous mission and ordered the Meat Combo ($24), where he got to choose 3 dishes to go with his salad and injera bread – which is like a crepe (we actually preferred the Mahloul to the injera bread).
One his platter was the Beg Tibs, chunky cubes of lamb of great quality, yet softer flavour. The second was the Kuku Na Nazi, which was like a chicken curry and quite tasty. Leaving the best to last – the star of the plate – was the Nyala Special, a richly flavoured traditional Ethiopian beef stew. One to definitely have again!
My vegetarian plate looked quite flat compared to the meaty one, but I was pleased with the Seble Combo ($20). It offered me splatters of Futari, Gomen, Meser and Keke. My fave out of the 4 was the Futari, which had a lovely spiced mixture of cabbage, potato and carrot. Next best was the Gomen, probably because I really like silver beet! The brown lentils in the Meser and the peri-peri spice of the split-pea Keke were tasty and all that jazz, but as I progressed clearing my plate, I thought, “Sheesh, I’ve eaten nearly every possible veg to bloat my belly tonight!” But what can you expect from a meal mainly made up of beans, lentils, and cabbage?! Yeah. Augostous Glute.
All in all, this new dining adventure was one we were both very pleased to go on. Some new flavours, some new combinations, and a lovely quiet evening. Everything was pretty solid, from flavours, to service, to overall value. If you like trying new things, and at a great price, then Nyala must get added to your To-Do List!
Address: Level 1, 356 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, VIC.
Tip! Parking is really tough on Brunswick St, as well as the surrounding areas. Head to the Coles carpark on Argyle Street, only a few minutes’ walk to Nyala, and pretty cheap too!