Dukem – Ethiopian at Your Finger Tips!Dec 15th, 2011 | By Peter Minakis | Category: Beef, Danforth, Ethiopian, Featured, Lamb, Poultry, Review, Spices, Talk Toronto, Vegetarian
A couple of weekends ago I met an Ethiopian fellow and after chatting about foods, spices and the many, many foods and restaurants available here in Toronto, I asked Abye where one should go for Ethiopian food here in the city. He directed me to Dukem, named after the city that sits just south of Ethiopia’s capital – Addis Adaba. City folk travel south for holidays or a weekend getaway and Dukem is often a pit-stop for refreshments or dining on the way back to Addis Adaba. The folks at Dukem hope to bring some of this hospitality to Toronto and let’s see how they do!
Dukem is located on the Danforth, just west of Donlands on the northside. Upon walking into this restaurant you’re transported to another place: African music plays softly in the background, low lights (but not dim enough to not see your food), the exotic aroma of spices (Berbere is an Ethiopian spice mixture) and the smell of coffee beans roasting. Coffee’s origins are from Ethiopia and they take it very seriously. You can request/order an Ethiopian Coffee ceremony where the entire process of coffee making is performed right in front of your table. We caught the table behind us being presented with a pot full of roasting coffee beans. The smell was intoxicating!
The room is very tastefully decorated with photographs of Ethiopia displayed and on sale. The tables are wooden, menus and drinks lists already at hand a long with salt, sugar, napkins and wet-naps! You see, you’re not going to get any cutlery at an Ethiopian restaurant as you’re supposed to eat with your right hand. The national bread of Ethiopia is Injera, a spongy large bread with the consistency much like a pancake and made of sorghum flour.
I entered Dukem with little info on Ethiopian cuisine other than knowing Berbere spices were prominent, one ate with your hands and the way to eat was to pinch a piece of Injera bread and scoop some food off the communal platters that you are served in. In Ethiopia, food is eaten family style and that’s how the portions arrive – big and you’re supposed to share. Our server was all to willing to offer assistance in ordering from the menu: lots of meat and vegetarians options raging from lamb, beef and chicken to lentils, spinach, beets and split peas.
Once again, the portions are generous and you should go to an Ethiopian restaurant with friends so that you may order more and share! After the menu was explained by our server, we settled on a meat (tibs) combo of meat, chicken and lamb with an array of vegetable offerings on the same platter. We also order a vegetable dish…always seeking a balance of meat and vegetables.
The first dish was the “special meat combo” that included marinated lamb, beef and chicken, all similar all different in their spice blend along with lentils, split peas, spinach, beets. I loved the beef and lamb, the spices in the chicken were a little bitter for my liking and I loved the vegetables and lentils too! There’s a lot of variety here and the pinching of Injera bread and picking up a different bite of food each time was exciting for the palate.
I saw that some other patrons were drinking wine but my server suggested beer as that’s what most seem to enjoy with Ethiopian food. Wine is a better sale for a restaurant but I appreciated her honesty. I ordered the Ethiopian beer on the menu but sold out – the Heineken washed the Ethiopian food down real well! The next dish to arrive was the “vegetarian medley” combo. What arrived was a stir-fried beef with onions and peppers and served on a hot plate – much like fajitas would. Although this dish also tasted good, it did remind me of fajita seasoning and if I were strictly vegetarian this dish would be a problem. Did we mis-communicate our order? Did we in fact receive tibs (meat) with vegetables?
The food was delicious (save for the bitter-spiced chicken), loved eating with my hands, Injera bread is a great conduit for the food, most of which has some heat but nothing too fiery and besides…it’s all washed down well with beer! For some reason our orders took awhile to arrive but the food was hot, very aromatic and delicious. Service is attentive and prompt and a dinner for two will set you back about $50-60.
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© 2011, Peter Minakis. All rights reserved. If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at http://kalofagas.ca then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.