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Sheba Ethiopian

Posted by Dawn Becker / Reviewed on May 19, 2010 / review policy

Sheba EthiopianSheba Ethiopian has the same stark aesthetic shared by almost all Ethiopian restaurants in this city. Uninspiring décor seems to be par for the course. Thankfully the robust flavours and warmth of the service make up for the lack of ambience at Sheba Ethiopian.

Sheba EthiopianMy friend and I each order a Sheba Veggie Platter ($12.95 per order) which is served on a large silver platter for sharing. It's covered with a base or plate of injera - the traditional Ethiopian sourdough flat bread - and comes with more injera on the side, used to wrap or roll up the salad and stews, traditionally using just your right hand. The injera plate soaks up any sauce and becomes a second course of flavourful juice soaked bread.

Sheba EthiopianThe Sheba Veggie Platter includes a scoop of various stews similar to curry, including Miser Wot or red lentil stew, Kik Wot and Kik Alicha two variations of yellow split pea stew, Gomen Wot or collard greens, and Tikel Gomen, a mild and sweet chopped cabbage and carrot dish.

Sheba Ethiopian20100518-ShebaEthiopian5.jpg.jpgThe lunch specials are the real deal here available, as indicated on the menu, from 12:00 noon to 3:30 pm. The same Sheba Veggie Platter goes for $7.99, a more appropriate price for the offering, presented as a single lunch plate, pictured above. The spice level is mild compared to other Ethiopian restaurants I've been to. A side of hot sauce takes care of that and comes either as a berbere sauce or just the ground spice for dipping.

Sheba EthiopianThe Sheba Meat Platter ($13.95 regular; $8.99 lunch special) is a combination of Awaze Tibs, pan-fried beef cubes with tomato and spices and Kitfo, minced seasoned beef also referred to as Ethiopian steak tartar, as it's traditionally eaten raw. Our serving of Kitfo comes more cooked than requested but as it sits on the plate, the flavours meld together so the last bite is better than the first. The platter also has a serving of dry cottage cheese that's a great addition to the meat dishes.

Sheba EthiopianGored Gored ($12.95), off the regular menu consists of beef cubes mixed in Kebbe, Ethiopian clarified butter and Awaze, red pepper paste. The menu recommendation says its best served raw. Having an unusual moment of timidity, I order the beef rare. The sauce is fantastic, deep and rich in flavour. The rare beef is mostly tender with the exception of a slightly sinewy centre in the odd piece. I spend the rest of the meal wondering if that would have been eliminated by ordering it raw, as recommended.

Sheba EthiopianA classic Ethiopian dish, the Doro Wot ($12.95) is chicken stew, usually a leg, served with a hard-boiled egg. Our dish came with two legs, though both were scrawny and not worth the price tag.

Sheba EthiopianSheba EthiopianSheba EthiopianEnd off with the coffee ceremony, ordered at the start of the meal as it takes time to prepare. As part of the ceremony, the coffee beans are brought to the table roasting with the scent wafted towards each guest, as is customary. Then a pile of smoking, fragrant frankincense arrives perched on a small incense holder. Accompanied by a snack of popcorn, the coffee is worth the wait, thick and strong. But don't get greedy and attempt to drink the silt on the bottom.

Sheba EthiopianSheba Ethiopian is a good example of the Ethiopian fare on offer in this city but consider choosing the lunch hour specials for a well-priced sampling when atmosphere is not a must.

Note: When asked about the hours of service there was an inconsistent response from the staff with one server stating 11am to 11pm and another indicating 11:30am to 10:30 pm which I have shown below. The hours for the lunch specials are also inconsistent. A sign out front reads 11:30am to 3:30pm and the printed menu indicates 12noon to 3:30pm while one of the servers states 11:30am to 3pm. Stay well within the range for the safe bet.

Hours: 11:30 am to 10:30 pm daily



dd / May 19, 2010 at 12:33 pm
Thanks for the review. Sounds like a bit of a dud. I'm sticking to Bloor St. (or Yummy's) for Ethiopian.
Al / May 19, 2010 at 02:36 pm
Yay! It's about time! This has been my favourite Ethiopian place for four years. It has never disappointed me, I have NEVER had better Ethiopian in the city (and I have tried all the winners), and the owners are incredibly lovely sisters. They deserve the press. Fantastic place. Now I have a Sheba craving.
M J / May 19, 2010 at 04:49 pm
Been to this place once, on one Friday eve. The place was less than half full, and the service was extremely slow. Just to get the waitress to come over took extra effort. I love Ethiopian, and I've been to many Ethiopian restaurants in the city, and I'm kind of used to expect somewhat slower service, but this was too much. A friend of mine had to chase the waitress for a glass of water. We took this up with the waitress, gave her a chance to explain, instead she gave us a dirty look, said "Ok" and walked away. That's ok, I ain't going back.
The food is passable. The peas were straight out of a can, although it's not the only Ethiopian place I've seen do that. It may be good to someone who hasn't tried this cuisine before.

If you have a craving for great injera, wot and spices, check out the new places at Danforth/Greenwood.
tbot / May 19, 2010 at 05:01 pm
don't know if you guys realized, but the link on your main page for this post (under the 'more from today' sidebar) is misdirecting to the following url:

Jen / May 27, 2010 at 10:46 am
I took my husband there when we were just dating a few years ago and it was terrible. The service was practically non-existent and the food tasted as if it had been sitting under a heat lamp all day (or was possibly day-old food reheated?). I've eaten a lot of Ethiopian food and aside from that one experience, I've never actually had BAD food. This place surprised me. It was awful. And the laziness of the service just added insult to injury.

Of course, this was also my husband's first experience with Ethiopian food so he swore I was crazy for liking it, and it took me over two years to get him to agree to try it again. This time I took him elsewhere... He loved it, and cursed Sheba for giving him an awful impression of such a beautiful cuisine. Now we go a few times a month, and have since never returned to Sheba.

I really hope that it was just an off day, but what we ate was definitely very stale. I hope they haven't continued this sub-par level of service, but I sure as hell won't be back to find out.
VINAY PATHAK / October 21, 2010 at 06:34 am

Melody / April 5, 2011 at 09:05 pm
@Jen: MAY 27, 2010

Hey Im surprised that your experience at Sheba was no less than perfect. That must of been an off day, cuz I sure as hell go there once a week and get exceptional food and service. Worth the money I spend there, to the dime. Maybe if you tried to go again, the food and service will differ from before....Just be open minded
AJS / April 6, 2011 at 09:10 am
I LOVE SHEBA! I have eaten at the vast majority of the Ethiopian restaurants in downtown Toronto, and Sheba is far and away the best. I have been a regular for several years and have taken, quite literally, all of my friends and family to try their delicious offerings. All loved the food and the service and have become loyal customers themselves. The food is generously portioned and the menu offerings, like the meat and veggie platter options, allow you to try various dishes, each of which tastes amazing. On top of all of this, the owners are incredibly warm, conscientious, and friendly. Every time I go here, I feel like I'm being invited into someone's home. It's truly one of Toronto's gems.
ve / August 5, 2013 at 02:55 am
Not an expert on Ethiopian cuisine but I've been here a few times and must say it's very good. Also, I have always had fantastic service. We'll be back soon.

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