As part of my commitment to helping my father expand his culinary experience, we visited Gibe African Restaurant in Dandenong on one of our last nights in Melbourne over the Christmas holidays. I’d been to Gibe a number of times before with friends when I was still living in Melbourne, and it was one of my stand-out “hidden gem” restaurants.
It doesn’t look like much from both the outside and inside too. But while the decor is sparse, service is friendly and comes with a smile, and food is plentiful, delicious and heart-warming. It’s a central meeting place for the local Ethiopian community as well, with many people coming in for a drink and a chat before moving on.
I described injera bread to my father as being “kind of like a pancake but not sweet”. While it’s perhaps not the best descriptor (blame my small Cantonese vocabulary), it was enough to get my dad interested. I personally like the spongy texture of injera, as well as the slightly tangy sour taste to it as well.
I found this note on injera on their website interesting though:
“Injera”, our staple bread, is a flat bread made of “Teff”, a fine grain unique to Ethiopia. But due to the luck of teff in Australia we made injera from the mixture of different grains floor like wheat, sorgam and selfaris floors.
I wonder what proper teff-based injera tastes like, if our Australian versions aren’t authentic?
With three of us dining (my father, K and I), we chose to order three dishes and a side salad – a meat combination (Beyayinetu Yefisge Watt), vegetarian combination (Yetsome Beyayinetu) and chicken dish (Yedorro Tibs). The meal comes with unlimited injera, and a side of rice for the chicken as well.
My favourite out of the meat combination was probably the Ziginy/Yesiga Watt Key, an extremely rich and thick beef stew that came with chunks of meat on the bone. The stew had that kind of spicy more-ishness that made me want to continue soaking up the stew with my injera.
I also really enjoyed the vegetable blend in that day’s Aticlt Watt – vegetables cooked in mild Ethiopian spices. The cabbage and carrot in that day’s blend was a fantastic mix of crisper cabbage texture that soaked up the spices, and sweeter bursts of soft carrots.
Dad was a big fan of the Yedorro Tibs – chicken pan-fried with green capsicum, onions and tomatoes. While it sounds like a simple dish, the smokiness of the chicken belied the fact that it was pan-fried. I would have imagined it to be smoked over charcoal for hours in order to achieve that delectable smokiness of flavour.
With the richness of flavour of some of the other dishes we ordered, a simple refreshing salad was a nice change in order to rest and cleanse our palates. You can’t go past a cucumber, tomato and iceberg lettuce salad with a simple tangy vinaigrette for simplicity’s sake.
At under $80 for the three of us, with a few drinks on the bill as well, Gibe African Restaurant offers amazing food, at amazing prices. The only reason I can come up with for why it isn’t more popular than it is, is simply based on location. Dandenong has a bit of a reputation, but if you’re ready to step outside your comfort zone and travel outside of the hip inner suburbs, there’s a wealth of delicious eating to be discovered!