• Abissínia Restaurante Etiope: Wot a find!

    August 21st, 2010quarrygirlbarcelona, more restaurants (not LA)

    heyo! time for another vegan field report from barcelona, spain by dadatamonkey! this one is pretty awesome, if i do say so myself. not only does the food sound amazing, but this post will give you some serious ethiopian food education. read up!

    Having spent some time here in BCN (Barcelona) I was getting a tad bored of the usual vegan places here, and decided to try out a few non-vegan places and see how I got on. The power of google led me to Abissínia. Which is cool as I spent time in Ethiopia as a kid! I had not found it reviewed on any of the usual suspects (yes it’s there now!) etc, but know Ethiopian food fairly well so knew I would be able to eat there. A number of traditional review sites seemed to rave about it so I popped along! It’s to be found within a 5min stroll of the metro in the Bohemian area of BCN, Gracia. This area used to be the main place for the large anarchist community here but less so now.

    This tiny frontage is like the opening to the Doctors Tardis. With foodie heaven hidden inside!

    Abissínia opened in 2006 I think, and is headed up by the brothers Behe. Ethiopian food is often vegan by default, due to the Coptic and Orthodox religions practiced by most people requiring avoidance of animal products at certain times of the year. Be aware though that butter is also widely used in cooking so check first in any other place. Meat is prepared and cooked totally separately so you have no issues with cross contamination in this kitchen!

    The traditional Ethiopian vegan diet is based on different types of berbere sauce with vegetables and pulses (made with yellow peas, lentil, cabbage, green beans, etc.) and are eaten with injeera —a pancake like “bread” made of teff grain using ONLY your right hand. Please. Never use the left. Also, it is customary to wash your hands before eating! This is all part of the Gursha, or way of eating.

    Looking back at the front door. You sit at hourglass-shaped straw tables called mesobs and low wooden stools. Very comfortable too. There is also western style seating at the back. I went for the front.

    All the food arrives on a single platter on top of the injeera, and you use your thumb and next two fingers only to pick up small pieces of injeera and use that as a “spoon,” with your right hand. Give it a go! Cutlery is available for those that don’t wish to try this. A lovely saying tells why this is done “those who eat from the same plate will not betray each other …” If you are on a date it’s totally acceptable to feed each other and fun with it! Also try not to lick your fingers either! Use the paper napkins provided!

    The menu! Slightly daunting if you haven’t eaten Ethiopian food, especially in a Spanish too! No worries, the staff speak English!

    When I arrived (on my own) there were no spare tables and lots of people waiting. I asked for a table and they said it’s difficult just for one. I did my best puppy dog eyes and they asked some people to move one way and others the other, a mesob and seat appeared and I was seated in minutes! A few people waiting didn’t look best pleased mind! It’s great to see such an authentic menu, and mainly vegan. Be warned though, the chicken comes flying out of the kitchen here so if that isn’t for you… The main menu can be a bit daunting… Luckily for those that haven’t eaten Ethiopian before – and don’t read Spanish! – There is an easier solution! Let them bring you the combination plate! Easy peasy! Literally. So I decided to try it on your behalf people. What I do for you eh? It’s a hard life… but somebodies gotta live it!! 😉

    I had the Plato vegetarian (all vegan) for 12-50 Euro.

    Ethiopian restaurants usually carry 7-10 vegan dishes; they are Wots or Wett (sauces) and Atkilts (vegetables). Wots are either spicy (Berbere: red chili used in hot stews and is the source of the dark red color) or mild (Alecha : A delicately mild sauce made with legumes or beans with garlic, ginger and Ird.). Most vegetables are served mildly spiced. Awaze is a side dish much like tabsco – hot paste served as a side and is often available here. To make wot finely minced onions, berbere, water and seasoned oil are cooked long and slow over a really low heat until they become emulsified. Although red chilli pepper is the main ingredient in berbere, it’s sun dried together with almost 20 other spices and herbs before being milled extra-fine. (NB I have spelt some of these the Spanish way so you can read the menu!)

    OMFG. This was just for me. A steal at 12-50 Euro!! Sooo good!

    The combination platter at Abissínia gives you (starting from the top clockwise): Ater Kek – carrots, potatoes simmered in a mild but fruity sauce, simple but great! Soya wot – Soya meat prepared in a spicier berbere sauce, so tasty! Alecha – split peas prepared with light sauce. Gomen – collard green cooked to perfection with spices. Messer Keh – split lentil simmered in berbere sauce and ensalada – salad. They also threw in another veg dish too! I forgot to ask what the fourth one was! I really think that washing my hands, eating the right etc endeared me to the staff as they were so kind. Beer is in plentiful supply and fairly cheap. A 30cl tap beer (Estrella) was 2Euro if I remember rightly.

    So how did it all taste you ask? Simply fantastic! Everything was perfectly cooked, not over not under, the spice was spot on. The injeera was simply the best I’ve eaten! And boy was I stuffed. There was nothing left on the platter! No bread. NOTHING! After I had finished eating and had a little time to relax, they respectfully asked if I minded moving from the “table” as there was a queue a mile long of people waiting to be seated. No problem I said! To which they offered a drink at the bar! They suggested a spirit that was like rocket fuel, but gorgeous. Another one please I said! I then asked if I could pay and guess what. They wouldn’t let me! Lovely people!

    So how would I summarise this place? It beats ALL the veggie/vegan places hands down. This was real food cooked by real enthusiasts in a totally traditional manner. It’s authentic to a tee. If you don’t go here on a visit you are quite simply mad as Keith Floyd would say! Marks out of 10? 11. Just do it ok.

    Restaurante Abissínia
    C / Torrent de les Flors 55
    Barcelona. 08024
    Open 20:00-00:30
    Tel 93 213 07 85 (they never seem to answer though)
    Metro Joanic

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