EAT: Blue Nile Ethiopian Cuisine @ Ottawa

After consuming truly excellent Ethiopian food at Habesha a few weeks back, our group decided to check out the other offerings around Ottawa. Our next stop was the Blue Nile Ethiopian Cuisine located just east of Ottawa’s Chinatown. We’ve heard about this restaurant through other food bloggers around Ottawa and it’s earned a very respectable 88% on Urbanspoon, so we anticipated a pretty smooth supper experience.

The dining room was relatively quiet on a Friday night so we were shown to a table pretty much right away. The menu is laid out by animal or mineral, with sections for beef, lamb, chicken, and vegetarian. We had intended on ordering the “kitfo special”, the raw beef mixed with kale and cheese, but  they ran out of cheese for the day so we settled for the regular kitfo along with our usual Ethiopian mainstays dulet and the vegetarian platter.
Blue Nile's MenuBlue Nile's Menu

Blue Nile: Dinner platterBlue Nile: Dinner platter
Ethiopian food is meant to be shared, so our food came out on a single platter. Our friend James usually had asked for his dulet to be on a separate plate, but all of our meals arrived on the same giant platter. We shrugged off the oversight and dug into our meal.

We had heard the meat grinder going full tilt in the kitchen earlier, and if that isn’t an indication of extremely fresh meat I’m not sure what is. The meat had a bright red colour and a distinct buttery aroma, a very good start, but I realized that my preferred kitfo is the one with the greens and cheese mixed in. The beef by itself tends to be very rich and heavy, so the vegetable content, however scarace it might be, really helps in making the dish taste less… raw-meaty. My preferences aside, the kitfo was decently spiced and incredibly fresh.
Blue Nile's KitfoBlue Nile's Kitfo

Blue Nile's dulet, a mixture of lamb meat, liver, and tripe
The dulet was a mixed experience. The heat and flavour was there, but the tripe was overdone and was a little dry. The raw meat is distinguishable from the liver and tripe mixture as the fresh red meat stands out visibly from the cooked tripe and liver. The colour spectrum aside (which isn’t off putting, just unexpected), the dulet had great flavour.

The star of the meal was the vegetarian platter. Each of the elements of the platter had its own distinct flavour and were delicious. The yellow chickpeas were a standout: the chickpeas itself were tender and the mixture was pleasantly thickened with powered chickpeas. The cabbage was also cooked nicely (as in it still had texture). The absence of cooked kale or collard greens was conspicuous, but there was enough salad and cabbage to make up for it.
Blue Nile's Vegetarian Platter. Cabbage with carrots and onions, red lentils, spiced chickpeas, green beans, salad, the works.Blue Nile's Vegetarian Platter. Cabbage with carrots and onions, red lentils, spiced chickpeas, green beans, salad, the works.

So we went crazy and ordered the house wine: Tej. Tej is derived from honey, and while it is rated at 10.5% alcohol content it probably is higher than that. Blue Nile’s version is homemade, delivered in an unmarked bottle, and tastes delicious. It reminds me a little bit of mead but thicker with a little more bite. We all thought it was well worth the money, though I only had a small sample as drinking and driving is bad.

A discussion on an Ethiopian restaurant isn’t complete without covering its injera, the Ethiopian bread/eating implement/serving utensil/serving vessel/ubiquitous filler. The injera was quite fresh and had a nice spongey feel to it. It tastes more dense than the injera we had at Habesha, and also less tangy/sour. I can’t really say which injera, Blue Nile or Habesha, is superior. I suppose it comes down to personal taste.

It’s nice having options. Blue Nile certainly is a place that executes its strengths well, but I think I prefer the consistency of the dishes coming out of Habesha’s kitchen.


Habesha Restaurant
Cuisine: Ethiopian
574 Rideau St.
Ottawa, ON K1R5N9
(613) 321.0774

Blue Nile Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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