Friday, March 29, 2013

Ethiopian Scene: Nil Bleu

If you're in the mood for something different, there's a lovely place on St-Denis that will definitely hit the spot. Nil Bleu is an Ethiopian restaurant that really fits in with the multiculturalism of Montreal. A brief walk from Sherbrooke Station, you'll find yourself right in the midst of a perfect African paradise.

I love the tiny elephant herd.
M and I came here for an early dinner. We'd recently discovered that it's best to go to restaurants really early, whether we have a reservation or not. That way, our food comes faster, and we still have a lot of time to chill after the meal and still get home at a reasonable time. Not for the first time, we were the first ones in.


It's not every place that can pull off zebra chairs so well. They also have huge painting depicting different scenes on the African savannah. A polished, white grand piano stands toward the back, and although we didn't get to hear it today, I have no doubt that its music will blend spectacularly into the decor as everything else. 


Those who know me know that I don't drink much, especially not wine, and past experience has shown that the cocktails here are so-so at best. Fear not, they have some cool exotic juices! I tried the goyava (guava) juice (right, $3.95). Refreshing and thick, the nectar was delicious! I could even taste little grainy bits of guava; there\s no doubt to how fresh this was. M tried the guanabana juice (left, $3.95). Neither of us had any clue what guanabana was... It's actually a large, spiky, green fruit with white flesh and black seeds. The more you know, huh? This drink was thinner and it was quite good; I definitely recommend both of these. 

The waiter tried to get us to order the tasting menu (and no surprise there, those cost a pretty penny), but we were having none of that. We had selected the combo A ($34.95). Now, I am usually against combos, but for this restaurant it's really the way to go. Since it's a type of cuisine most people are totally clueless about, there's a big chance you'll order something you won't like. The combos for two are well-priced and include four pre-selected choices, with a small complementary salad in the middle. If you do order your own dish, it's quite reasonably priced too, ranging from $13-18.


You may have noticed the little breadrolls. It's injera bread -- a very soft, rolled up crepe that you use to pick up your food. That's right, folks, no knives and forks in here! I would come here just for the injera; I am a huge fan. Don't worry if you run out of bread, the waiter will come with extra. 

Now, the actual mains... The yellow one at the top is yatakelt watt, a thick and creamy mash of yellow split peas cooked with tumeric, ginger, and onions. Tasty and filling, and definitely complements a meal well. I'm not sure about having that as a full meal though. On the right is doro alicha, a chicken leg hidden under a mountain of house sauce and topped with half an egg. It was very good, but the chicken leg is whole, and was annoying to pry apart with the bread. I would get this if it was shredded chicken, though. Yebec alicha at the bottom was my favorite. Rich morsels of lamb in a mild sauce, with tender pieces of carrots and potatoes. Definitely try this one if you're not so excited about eating the more paste-like options. To the left, there is the key watt -- marinated beef in berbere sauce, a common spice mix in Ethipian cuision. It's a little bit spicy, and very yummy. M's favorite. 


All that was more than enough food for two, but there's more! The waiter showed up with a plate of little cakes ($3.00 each), and they all looked so good that we couldn't resist. M had the mango chocolate, a fudgey cake with tender mango in the centre. I got the lemon meringue, and the tartness was perfect after the meal I'd just experienced. We did find eating these to be pretty awkward, since the cakes would start to fall apart when you break the chocolate layer. I would have appreciated plates for these... 

Every single aspect of the restuarant blew me away. Our waiter was quite gentlemanly, providing exemplary service. We walked out of here with very full bellies, a fantastic mood, and promises to one another that we're most certainly coming back. 

3706 St-Denis,
Montreal, QC
(514) 285-4628
http://www.nilbleurestaurant.com/

Nil Bleu on Urbanspoon

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