Visit my website:

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Addis in Dar

We flag a taxi right outside of Jambo Inn. Manon takes control, negotiating the fare and destination with the driver in Swahili. I climb into the backseat, observing tableaus of the night as we drive through the city. Men sit in front of closed storefronts, chatting and playing Bao in the dark. New shifts of street venders continue to smoke meat and grill chapatti. Every time the taxi pauses momentarily in traffic, someone knocks on the window, advertising wrapped candies or salvaged Western kitsch. The street color dissipates as we enter emptier and pricier parts of the city, with more imposing edifices— expensive prisons that lack ambiance. Every building looks like an embassy, doubly barricaded by walls and gates. I suppose this is the “nicer part of the city” that an Afrikaner on the plane had wanted to show me.

Entering the outwardly non-descript building, Manon and I ascend a staircase and are relieved to find a lively, ornately decorated balcony. ‘Addis in Dar’ is a restaurant of Ethiopian cuisine—now that I am here I recall ‘Addis in Cape,’ a popularly recommended place in Cape Town, evidentially started by the same Ethiopian woman.

We are seated at the corner of the balcony, surrounded on two sides by the thick, glossy foliage of the tropical trees rooted in the garden below. With the dark flickering of candle lanterns, and the smell of incense mingling with roasting coffee, the restaurant perfects for its Western customers the atmosphere of ‘exotic Africa’. I wonder if the theme of ‘Ethiopia’ strikes Tanzanians with a sense of mystery and foreignness. Looking around, I notice few Tanzanian customers; those that are here appear to be on business dinners. Though I try not to eavesdrop, I am intrigued that they are speaking English to each other, and Swahili to the wait-staff.

Dinner is ceremoniously presented. The meal consists of various kinds of wot, or stews, scooped onto a large communal sourdough crepe called injera. The injera is moist, a gray fermented flour that absorbs the rich spices and herbs of the sautéed dishes and wot.

“We eat with the right hand,” the waiter proclaims. “Use the injera to scoop up the stew. Very nice.”

We have ordered vegetarian dishes, Kek Alicha Wot— chickpeas with ginger and turmeric— lentil stews, and a hummus-textured scoop of sweet simmered pumpkin. The meal is mushy, fragrant with herbs and spices, and wonderfully contrasted by the sour injera.

No comments:

Post a Comment