It is perhaps reflective of the amazing place Footscray is, that when I first saw African Taste open I thought, "Cool, another Ethiopian restaurant!" and thought no more about it. There is much more here than meets the eye, though. Rather than just straight Ethiopian or Eritrean, this bright and cheery restaurant has a number of "fusion" dishes on its menu, with flavours gleaned from the chef's native East Africa as well as Sudan and North Africa.
Genfo African Fufu, $10.95
Fufu is apparently a kind of porridge or paste common across Africa and made from various flours, usually served in one large ball (perhaps like this Sudanese omnemia). Instead of one large ball, though, these fufu gnocchi are small, made with toasted barley flour and served in a thick, rich, creamy sauce with a nice chilli kick and plenty of spice, particularly paprika. They are so amazingly good! They are just as light as traditional gnocchi but the barley flour gives a nuttiness to them and a slight graininess, which is more apparent as they cool down. This sounds unappealing but trust me, you have to try this. For a little extra you can add lamb, chicken or spinach & ricotta but I think they are fabulous as they are. This is chef Ben's own special creation and it is a winner!
African Fasting Food, $14.95
Two days per week, Orthodox Christian Ethiopians "fast" or consume only 100% vegan food. This was a sample platter of fasting food which included a simple, crunchy, tasty stir-fry of beans, onions and carrot, very spicy and therefore most excellent misir wat or red lentil dal, mild yellow split pea dal, tikil gomen or cabbage and carrot (I prefer more crunchy and less soft but it was still great) and what I know as dubba or slow-cooked pumpkin and eggplant cooked with berbere, traditional Ethiopian spice. Everything was delicious and light on oil, which I prefer. The Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurants in Footscray vary vastly in the amount of oil used in the vegetarian dishes in particular and I much prefer the drier style as here.
This dish of tibes or small, tender lamb pieces in a rich berbere and tomato sauce was excellent. The lamb had great flavour, was perfectly cooked and so flavoursome. I also love the tibs that African Town in Nicholson Street make, which is cooked in butter but without a red sauce and with lots of chunky green chilli.
Plenty of spongy injera was on hand to soak up all the delicious flavours. The menu has plenty of other gems I am keen to try like the "cramped cauliflower", coated in a yellow seasoning and fried, and the "African enchilada" (available in both chicken and vegetarian).
The couple who own and run African Taste, Ben and Sunny, are delightful - friendly, genuine and passionate. The restaurant is tiny and the kitchen is just beyond a simple partition, but it was packed on a Monday night. There are plans afoot to extend out the back and take on more staff. Thank you Eileen and Phil for your original guest post that set the tastebuds a-watering, and to Deb who was happy to revisit and give me a tour of the menu! I am keen to try their breakfast menu, particularly the "gourmet vegetarian pizza" at $7. Pizza for breakfast - a much-loved Australian tradition on an African fusion menu. How cool is that?!
124 Victoria Street, Seddon (map)
Phone: 9687 0560Hours: Wed - Mon 10am-9pm (til 10pm Fri & Sat) - closed Tues
NB $1.50 per meal surcharge after 7pm
Step to enter.