We were taking a break from the BC Beer Awards, hosted at the Croatian Cultural centre, with some dinner. They had hot dogs and food trucks available for a quick bite, but we wanted something a tad more substantial with a sit down vibe. There wasn’t much available in the area, as we wanted to keep our travel time to a minimum. All these factors led us to “Gojo” for some traditional Ethiopian cuisine. I am admittedly not too familiar with Ethiopian food, so took a step back, allowing my guests to order, and tell me what is what. This review is written in that perspective.
The restaurant was a little slower on this Saturday night, allowing you take in the decor. It was quaint with a thatched roof bar at the back and African antiquities adding patterns and colour all around. Photos, prints, and textiles leading you through the restaurant.
As for the menu: when you order Ethiopian food you are choosing the meat and vegetable dishes you want to enjoy with injera. “Injera” is a sourdough-risen flatbread, which is more like sour and spongy pancake textural. It is the national dish of Ethiopia and every meal is based around it. A typical serving consists of a Wat, a stew that is also similar to curry or a more watery stew, poured over some injera.
In our case, this pancake is stretched out over a large plate, and any side is served over it like an edible dish. But first you eat any of the stew or veggies with the basket of rolled up injera on the side. You eat with your hands, using the injera like a scoop. It keeps your hands clean until you begin peeling from the round of it that is also used as a plate.
We had the following three dishes. “Lamb wat”, chunks of lamb seasoned in rosemary, garlic, and ginger; with sautéed bell peppers and a side of clarified butter cabbage. The lamb was a little tough, tough I liked its sauce and the tart peppers that gave it some freshness.
The “Beef wat” was the same as the above, but with heartier chunks of beef instead. It was spicy and salty, and more like a rich stew. I wish this had some vegetable mixed in too, in order to break flavours apart.
“Kitfo” was the steak tartar that centred our serving. It was freshly minced, extra lean beef seasoned with mitmita (spicy Ethiopian chilli powder) and herbed clarified butter. Served with spinach on the side. Although we were given a warning that the meat was raw, you couldn’t tell by tasting it. It was less seasoned than the two dishes before, so for more kick, it was suggested that we dip it into the chilli power for more spice.
To balance all the protein above, we had some vegetables in the form of the “GOJO vegetarian combination”. Miser wat, cabbage, green beans and carrot, and spinach. It gave the serving a different texture and some tang. It also gave us a great break in between all the heavier meats.
Overall my table mates agreed that this was most satisfying. And I will take their word for it, given their combined familiarity with the cuisine. One of which even unconsciously “mmmm-ed” after each bite he took. For me, I was left feeling very full from all the doughy injera that I ate. I enjoyed it and its bubbly texture the most.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I wouldn’t be apposed to coming back, but this wouldn’t my first choice, given my unfamiliarity with the cuisine. And having had this full serving, I can conclude that the flavours aren’t something I would naturally gravitate towards in the future. I would however, recommend it to those who want to try something new or are already familiar with Ethiopian cuisine as a great destination for some. Don’t deny your cravings.