869 Bloor Street West (at Ossington Ave.)
For someone who only eats chicken and turkey (and sometimes seafood) because she says other meats gross her out, my friend Irene is pretty open to trying new cuisines. And she likes spicy things. Spicy things are key to eating with me. Anyway, she suggested Ethiopian, and I was game because I've never had it before. I even had to read about it on my good ol'friend Wikipedia as my knowledge was non-existent.
Your only utensils are your hands and injera "bread." Being a child raised on Indian parathas and curries, I had no problem with the hands-only method. It was injera that gave me major issues.
I first saw injera at the Brick Works Farmers' Market in late July and I love all things carbs. So a huge circular piece of doughy bread looked fantastic. But when it sat in front of me at Lalibela with various pickled vegetable mixes on top, I was not eager to dive in.
First, the sight freaked me out. Injera looked like a holey, dirty, wet, used sponge. Then the feeling -- gooey rubber. And sadly, it tasted like spongey rubber with a sour-milk tinge to it. Obviously, I wasn't pleased.
We ordered the hot vegetarian platter ($12) to share, which was described as consisting of splint peas (maybe it was supposed to read "split peas"?), lentil, chick peas, cabbage, collard green and vegetables -- everything I dislike. But what I've noticed as I've gotten older is when I try foods I normally dislike prepared in an "authentic" way, I tend to grow a taste for it. Unfortunately, this wasn't one of those times.
We also tried chicken tibs ($13), which is a spicy buttery stew that was good, but not better or that much different from eating my dad's chicken curry.
I thought maybe the Ethiopian coffee would make up for everything. Instead, an elaborate coffee show left my face almost burnt, getting choked by unrelenting smokey incense, and drinking coffee that could've been Nestle Tollhouse for all I knew.
I'm not going to rate this restaurant because it wouldn't be fair. Just because I dislike the cuisine, does not mean the restaurant is bad. Lalibela was recommended to me by a friend who lives in the area, and I know there are a ton of people who are into Ethiopian food. In fact, the place was pretty busy for a Thursday early evening.
It's only the second type of cuisine I don't like -- next to Korean. Although Korean has been growing on me in little ways after all these years. Anyway, still happy I tried it. At least now I know.