Burnaby Now

admin, March 5, 2008

He also liked the flavours, which are robust, but not blazingly hot.

Ethiopian Cuisine Full of Surprises
By Niki Hope
The Heights Reporter
Photos by Larry Wright

We recently stopped by Lalibela on a sunny weekday afternoon, to try food from a country better known to me for its draught and famine than its cuisine.

I’ve never had Ethiopian food, so when a reader recommended Lalibela restaurant on Hastings Street, it was a sign that it might be time. Plus, it seems a lot of people are familiar with the spicy fare.

I love zesty food – the hotter the better – so that part didn’t concern me, but my lunch mate (who I call Shooter) and I weren’t entirely sure what was coming out of the kitchen when we placed our order.

After substantial deliberation, we ordered a vegetarian stew made of red lentils, with chili peppers and cardamom, cinnamon, garlic, ginger and onion seeds.

We also opted for a spicy beef dish and a milder chicken dish.

The room itself was fragrantly filled with sugared scent of burning incense. Pictures of Ethiopia were hung throught, and the room was open and bright.

The other thing we noticed – no forks, no spoons, no nothing for helping us devour our beef and chicken and veggie stew.

But we were warned. The menu explained that the food is eaten with Injera, a spongy, sour crepe-like flatbread used to scoop up the food. Injera is made with teff, a tiny, round grain found in Ethiopia. I later learned.

The idea is to place the food on the bread and devour the bread and the filling.

It’s a funny way to eat, and doesn’t require too much time to master.

“I’m kind of enjoying this. I like the idea of eating with my hands,” Shooter said, as he ingested a mouthful of chicken.

He also liked the flavours, which are robust, but not blazingly hot.

The beef actually had more spice than heat, either way it has a nice kick. The chunks of lean chicken breast were gingery and subtle. The veggie stew was finely blended and almost tart.

Each dish, like Chinese cuisine, came in its own bowl. The portions were large, and obviously meant to be shared.

A visit at Lalibela would be ideal for a large gathering, where everyone could try a dish, and discover, like me, that Ethiopian cuisine is all it’s cracked up to be.

My only regret – we didn’t try the Ethiopian coffee ceremony, which is described in the menu as “a integral part of Ethiopian social and cultural life.”

The ceremony starts with the roasting of green coffee beans in the kitchen. The smoking pan of aromatic beans is brought to the table, and the coffee is poured from a clay pot into small cups – sounds delicious, but we did have to get back to work.

Ethiopian-born owner Mehiret Berhe and her husband Tekest Berkie opened the restaurant last spring.

Their customers enjoy the big flavours, and the distinct spices that they import from Ethiopia, says Berhe, who has lived in Canada for almost 20 years.

Lalibela is located at 4530 Hastings St. For a take-out order or to make reservations, call 604-299-4555.

Our lunch, which included a beef, chicken and vegetarian dish, San Pellegrino (and lots to take home), cost $41 with tax and gratuity.

Dine in and Take Out

We Accept

  • Cash
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Hours of Operation

Monday -CLOSED
Tuesday - Saturday11.30AM - 10.00PM
Sunday12.00PM - 10.00PM


Our Services

Birthdays, Graduation, Showers, Holiday Parties. We cater for all events large & small. Email us at lalibela@lalibelabc.com

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Consuming raw or undercooked meats, poultry, seafood or eggs may increase your risk of food borne illness.