Name: Fekerte’s Ethiopian Cuisine
Address: 74/2 Cape St Dickson ACT 2602
Ph: (02) 6262 5799
Chefs: Fekerte Tesfaye
Hours: Lunch Tues – Fri, 12pm – 2pm. Dinner Tues – Sat, 6pm – 10pm
A flashbulb moment is when an event is so significant that everything you were doing when you find out is seared into your mind. Everyone knows what they were doing when they found out about 9/11 (watching The West Wing) or when Princess Diana died (on a walk in Mount Martha).
While last Wednesday’s announcement of the pending Gillard leadership spill was not in the same vicinity as those events, for me the night will forever be linked with Ethiopian food.
And for a night where the government washed its hands of Kevin Rudd, it was only right that we got our hands dirty. For at Fekerte’s Ethiopian Cuisine, eating with your hands is the only way to go.
I love eating with my hands. Despite so much being eaten with your hands, from sandwiches, chips and meat pies through to sushi and tapas, people forget just how great tactile contact with dinner can be. I long for the way that much of the world used to eat, with some sort of bread or grain held in your fingers, pinching morsels from a shared plate. When it comes to communal food, there is no better way to experience it. And thankfully, this is exactly how you dine at Fekerte’s.
We started with a platter of entrees, good value at $12 a head. A selection of samosa, some meat some vegetarian, were crisp and spicy, a good version of a classic dish. Cauliflower being one of my current obsessions, the slightly nutty cauliflower fritters were soft, fried lumps of winter warmth.
However the best entrée was the Bakela, a broad bean dip, served hot with crispy wholemeal bread. It was rich and meaty (or as meaty as beans can be) with a touch of spice, although it would have been nice to have a little more of the bread.
Following our waiter’s recommendation, we had the traditional platters for our main ($29.90 per person). A collection of meat and vegetarian dishes, some salads and some condiments are served on top of a piece of enjera, a very thin, light flat bread. Another piece of enjera is served rolled up on the side, so you could break off a piece to pick up the other food. The enjera itself does not have much flavour, but that works with the well flavoured curries and stews.
These platters were visually stunning. Small mounds of bright yellow, red and white surrounded a pile of meat and onion, framed by the rolled bread. It was a culinary palate, waiting for us to put it together however we wanted.
For me, the absolute standout was the lega tibs, small pieces of lamb marinated in white wine and spices, sautéed with rosemary, onions and green pepper. Tender and sweet with a slight sharpness, these were a delight.
The menu’s introduction explained that there are two types of Ethiopian curries – wats and alichas. wats are spiced with berbere, and have the wonderful strength and smokiness that come with that. The alichas are a lot milder in flavour and, to my palate, a lot less exciting. As such the other dish in the middle of the platter, a vegetable curry known as atkilt alicha, was a little bland.
For sides there were two types of hot stew, ater alicha, a mild dish of yellow split peas, and miser wat, spiced red lentils. Both well flavoured, they added body to the other dishes. There was also a salad of tomatoes and peppers, and some homemade cottage cheese, both of which added freshness to the meal.
Beside the platters, as they didn’t fit on the plate, were the main meat curries. We had some of the key wat (beef) and the doro wat (chicken). These dishes were nice, with nice strong sauces, but the flavour did not vary much between them. Also, the sauces were very thin and there was only a small amount of meat. With extra enjera, this would have been less of a problem, but as it was there was no real way to eat this.
We washed all this down with a reasonable bottle of Greenstone Point Pinot Noir ($32), chosen from a solid short list.
Unfortunately the desperate need to find a television to witness the events of the evening meant that I couldn’t experience the traditional coffee, or the rather exciting sounding semolina cake, but that just means I need a return journey.
This was a highly enjoyable meal, even if some dishes were better than others. While at around $50 a head it was a little more expensive than people expected for Ethiopian, the style of eating was not one that I have experienced often, and is worth the cost.
Having some enjera in my fingers made certain that the ascension of the Red Queen wasn’t the only thing to excite me that night.