Stopped in to Kokeb for the first time in quite a while the other night. I figured I might watch a bit of the Jets game while enjoying an early evening supper.
While I enjoy walking along Broadway and sampling the varieties of food that the trucks have to offer, when the weather produces the kind of temperatures and humidity that were on display yesterday, it’s nice to have an air-conditioned place to pop into to enjoy my lunch. Kokeb, an Ethiopian restaurant, for many years located on Ellice Avenue, but now on Edmonton Street is such a place.
On the whole, while the food was quite good, it wasn’t as good as it has been, and they also don’t seem to be bothering to update their menu. First off, I tried to order the Siening Kariya. My server explained that this was an appetizer, which was why I was ordering it, and then told me they didn’t have any.
Now, that would be all right, but I then decided to order the weekend special. My server told me that the special was a soup, and that they didn’t have any. So, at that point I was zero for two on my menu choices.
At that point, I decided to order the samosa for my appetizer and the Yegel Tibs, a lamb dish with onion, green pepper, and other spices.
The samosa came out first.The samosa was nice and crispy, but it was definitely overcooked.
I noticed that another table that had also ordered samosas received hot sauce with their order while I did not. However, a couple of minutes later, my server came by to ask whether I wanted hot sauce. I made sure to finish the whole container(I had a second container with my main course, while the table of three ate about half of their first container between them).
The Yegel Tibs was quite good. I found the Lamb to be tender and the vegetables nicely grilled. It was a different experience for me as generally I order the stew type dishes. The difference is that the injera that the main course was served on held together as far as it’s consistency was concerned making it easier to keep picking up the lamb as my meal went along.
On the whole, the food was quite good, but I left with a feeling that Kokeb is coasting a little on it’s reputation. I’m certainly less enthusiastic about this restaurant than I was five years ago. There are a lot of Ethiopian restaurants in the area where I am living, including a new one in the old Sargent Avenue Legion building. I’m liking to try them out before heading back to Kokeb.
If you do stop at Kokeb, don’t forget to finish your meal off with a visit to Pastry Castle which is only a couple of doors down on Edmonton Street.
Kokeb’s lunch offering is a vegetarian buffet priced at $8.99. True, there are only 9 items in the buffet, but there is still plenty of variety in those 9 items. Start with the Injera, the homemade Ethiopian style bread, which you may use as a utensil as well. If you are not quite ready to eat with your fingers, there are forks available. Given that the dishes are all cooked in sauces, you won’t find the vegetables crisp, but they retain firmness when you bite into them.
If you’re not in the mood for a buffet, Kokeb also has a menu that features a wide range of Ethiopian Dishes.
Among the many fine dishes on the Kokeb menu is Doro Wat, the best known Ethiopian dish. When I tried it, the chicken was well cooked yet still moist and tender, the egg was hard-boiled and the dish was well seasoned with Berbere, the traditional Ethiopian spice. Berbere is on of those wonderful spices that adds interesting flavour at the same time it adds heat. If you are feeling more adventurous, you might want to try the Dulet Kitfo. This is a dish somewhat similar to a tatare, in that the meat is only warmed in butter rather than thoroughly cooked through. I tried it, to no ill effect, and the one thing I really liked about this dish was that it came with Berbere on the side to allow me to control the heat to my heart’s content.
Kokeb does offer a breakfast, which I haven’t tried, but the best time to come is for lunch or for dinner. The food on offer is well prepared, and well seasoned throughout the menu from the fire of the Berbere, down to the more delicately season butter based dishes. If you come for something other than the buffet, prepare for a bit of a wait. Ethiopian food is slow food in the best sense of the term. It is food meant to be enjoyed at leisure with family and friends around the table. While cutlery is available, do trying using the Injera and eating with your fingers, at least once. The service is leisurely, but friendly and attentive. The decor is mainly dark wood, and the walls are covered with a variety of pieces or Ethiopian art and photographs. There are large screen TVs usually broadcasting sporting events, but they are easily tuned out if you want space for conversation, or as I generally dine alone, reading.