EAT: Habesha Restaurant @ Ottawa

Ottawa has great Ethiopian food… Mind-blowingly great.

I’ve always been partial towards restaurants that, for a lack of a more diplomatic explanation, can care less about their exterior appearance. One thing I’ve learned about eating in my native Hong Kong is that the best food comes from shacks, carts, and storefronts that look anything but “five stars”. Habesha’s less than exciting storefront luckily translates to some of the best Ethiopian food I have had. A preface: It’s best to approach Ethiopian cuisine with an open mind. It’s not steak and potatoes, and you’re eating with your hands, but if you are open to new experiences, you won’t be disappointed with Habesha.

Habesha’s owners are a friendly husband and wife team, and they won’t be shy with the recommendations. The menu is a variety of authentic Ethiopian fare. Fortunately, my university buddy James is an expert in this subject matter, whose addiction to Habesha alone is probably enough to put the owner’s children through university. He’s been coaching me through their menu for the past two years, and I’ve since settled on some of my favourite items.

The Liyu Kitfo is best described as the Ethiopian version of beef tartar. Habesha blends freshly ground beef with a fiery butter. Their version includes a side serving of dried cottage cheese and spiced collard greens, which they mix directly into the meat mixture. You can ask for the cottage cheese and greens to be served separately from the beef tartar, but the regular way is to have it all mixed in togetehr. My personal favourite is the Dulet, which is an equally fiery dish of stewed lamb tripe and liver and beef tossed with green chilis and onions. While the combination is off-putting to some, the textures and flavours are anything but.
Delicious dulet on the left, liyu kitfo on the right.Delicious dulet on the left, liyu kitfo on the right.

Vegetarian? I won’t hold it against you, and Habesha’s got you covered. There’s a vegetarian platter on the menu, and it offers a wide variety of stewed and curried legumes as well as a truly addictive preparation of collard greens.

Ethiopian food can be a foreign concept for a lot of people, so I’ll quickly explain: There are no utensils, at least not in the conventional sense. Each plate is served atop of a piece of spongy sourdough-like flatbread called injera. You tear a piece of injera and use it as an extension of your hands to pick up food and shovel it in your mouth. Optionally, you slather the injera in a spice melange called mitmita¬†before using it to insert food in mouth. It can get messy, but it’s worth it.

There is another Ethiopian restaurant that’s in a much more enviable location near downtown Ottawa, but my friends and I shun that one in favour of Habesha, a truly awesome restaurant with a family-owned feel.

Let go of your inhibitions and discount your reservations (read: don’t be a wuss). Give Habesha a try, and you may just find yourself back as a regular.

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Habesha Restaurant
Cuisine: Ethiopian
574 Rideau Street
, Ottawa, ON K1N 6A1
(613) 761-6120

Habesha on Urbanspoon

3 Comments

  • Pingback: Nerd and Food » EAT: Blue Nile Ethiopian Cuisine @ Ottawa

  • Tony
    September 25, 2012 - 6:23 pm | Permalink

    The review is for Habesha, but the address is for Blue Nile! I am having Habesha for dinner tonight!

  • October 1, 2012 - 9:35 pm | Permalink

    Opps. Thanks for the correction!

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