African Palace is an Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurant just west of Shaw Street on Bloor West.
You know it when you find it. Everyone has that one type of food that you never get sick of, no matter how many nights in a row you gorge yourself or no matter how many times you remind yourself that it may well end up being painful. For me it's Ethiopian food.
Put tikil gomen in front of me and I'll pull the injera (the delicious spongy pancake made from teff) out from under it so quickly it'll appear to have suddenly fallenl through a trap door in the plate.
We're lucky to be rather spoiled in Toronto with clusters of Ethiopian restaurants on both Danforth and Bloor West. Supplementing these are a scattering that includes the excellent Ethiopian House downtown and the all-vegetarian M&B Yummy in Parkdale, to name just two.
African Palace has a friendly, cozy atmosphere (there are about 7 tables in the whole restaurant) and we're warmly greeted when we arrive.
As we've all looked at the online menu in advance and have a shortlist of choices that far exceeds what three people can handle in one sitting, our server suggests ordering a three person platter. This involves the six most popular vegetable dishes as well as three meat stews for the extremely decent total of $28.
The beet tibs cooked in onion, jalapeno and garlic are delicious with the shiro wot, a pea stew in berbere sauce (chili with a blend of spices).
The kikel fitfit is usually made with lamb but the chicken that they're substituting it with tonight still works well in it's ginger and garlic sauce.
I was especially looking forward to the dero wot, a chicken drumstick and hard-boiled egg smothered in berbere sauce, as it was the first time I'd tried it.
The most popular meat dish in the restaurant, the beef tibs (sauteed beef in awaze sauce, a spicy pepper paste) nicely rounds out the chicken and vegetable selections.
The other vegetable stews were the spinach staple gomen wot, cooked with garlic and carrots. Yekik alicha, a turmeric-y yellow pea stew goes with everything well, as does the tikil gomen (my personal favourite) a cabbage, carrot and potato mix cooked in turmeric sauce. The azifa, a lemon spiked green lentil composite is pretty damn good too.
As we were initially told not to be shy if we wanted more injera, we ask the owner for a couple more.
She brings them out and then shows us how to load up the pancake pieces so that we don't get too heavy of a pancake to filling ratio (we're too embarrassed to say that we'd actually initially nibbled away most of our pancakes because we couldn't restrain ourselves while the platter was being photographed from all angles).
As it's a welcoming custom she feeds the loaded demonstration pancake to my friend, unfortunately too quickly for us to get a picture of the hungry pelican impression that ensues.
Before she returns to the kitchen, she jokes that we can't leave until everything on the plate is finished. We don't need an excuse to do this but it's nice to have one all the same.
Politeness has never been so rewarding.
Photos by Emma McIntyre