by Greca Durant,
Fine dining or eating out on a budget? Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia, boasts a good number of restaurants that would please discerning diners. To the first time visitor, Addis Ababa, the highland capital of Ethiopia, East Africa, may seem daunting, or even dubious, when thoughts turn to nourishment. He or she may have been fed, cautioned, and bombarded with fright stories about food poisoning, parasites, unhygienic practices, and other unpalatable tales a traveler often hears, before a sojourn, or a job transfer to unfamiliar territory. However, there is nothing dubious about restaurants in Addis Ababa. The city has a fine selection of food establishments worthy of one’s custom. Diners should note that restaurants are not numbered in Addis Ababa – but any taxi driver will be able to take you to the restaurants listed below if you provide the name.
Peony Flower, Da Tang, China Bar and Restaurant–Chinese Restaurants
Host to a sizeable Chinese population, Addis Ababa is saturated with Chinese restaurants, serving melt-in-the-mouth dumplings, sizzling meat or seafood dishes, stir-fried noodles, and other favorites. Head off to Peony Flower on Bole Road, diagonally across Friendship Supermarket. Peony Flower offers an extensive menu that includes a hot pot noodle selection, meat, fish, and seafood delights. The eye-catching, sweet and sour Peony Flower fish has a crunchy top, but moist and soft underneath.
The newly opened Da Tang, located 200 meters from Imperial Hotel, on the Gerji Road, can seat hundreds. Try the spinach and egg-filled steamed buns, and the crispy chicken served with mandarin pancakes. But, the grande dame of Chinese restaurants in Addis Ababa is the China Bar and Restaurant, by Meskel Square. Popular with Ethiopians and non-Chinese expats, it has been serving the city since decades.
Aladdin, Pamukkale Turkish, Al-Mendi’s–Middle Eastern Restaurants
For Middle Eastern food lovers, Aladdin, off-Bole Road, is the restaurant of choice. It serves the best hummus in town, plus appetizing mixed mezze, delicious kebabs, accompanied by fine wines. Aladdin plays nightly host to a predominantly expatriate crowd drawn to its excellent food, service, and location.
Another expat haunt is Pamukkale Turkish Restaurant on the European Union Road. Lamb kebabs, grilled fish and rice, mixed salads, hummus, baba ganoush and Turkish bread, and creamy eiran or Turkish yogurt drink, are just some of its pleasing-to-the-palate items.
However, at Al-Mendi’s, one is treated to a veritable feast of spiced mendi or sheep, chicken, shish kebab, and lamb, accompanied by rice, or huge, hot Arabic flat-bread. Located off Bole, on the Olympia area. Students tend to favor Al-Mendi’s.
Greek Olympiakos Club, Sangam Indian, The Showroom–for Greek, Indian, Cafe Food
Also in the Olympia area is the renowned Greek Olympiakos Club, with its tennis courts and a restaurant that serves Greek specialities. On weekends, foreign diplomats and locals converge on the terrace for drinks after several sets of tennis.
Sangam, on Bole Road, has been dishing out authentic Indian culinary delights, like tandoori specials, curries, breads, and sweet lassi, since 1975. The lunch combo of rice, vegetable curry, meat or fish curry, and naan is highly recommended. Lassi, the Indian yogurt drink, either sweet or salty, counters the curry’s fiery tendencies.
The Showroom, near Mexico Square, served as a car showroom before its conversion into a stylish café-restaurant. A fine collection of oil paintings adorns its walls. Order fish and chips, roast lamb and rice, pasta, sandwiches, and other items from a rather extensive menu. Chips are fat and crunchy, unlike the soggy version served up in some places.
Sheraton Addis, Hilton Hotel Addis Ababa–for Five-Star Dining, International Cuisine
Five-star hotels offer exciting international brunch and dinner buffets. On Sundays, Summerfields, Sheraton Addis, welcomes hotel guests and walk-in diners to a huge brunch, from breakfast items like cereals, dried fruits, mixed fresh fruit juices, breads, jams, to luncheon starters like smoked salmon, beef carpaccio, sushi, seafood salad, and mixed vegetable salads. The main course menu is a delectable selection of meat, fish, seafood, vegetable, rice, and pasta creations. Scrumptious desserts complete the line-up.
Hilton Hotel entices patrons to a range of dining options, a la carte or theme buffets. There is an Asian Buffet Night, with Indian, Japanese, Chinese, Malay, or Thai food; and a BBQ Special.
Le Grand Rêve Restaurant, Addis Ababa–Belgian/European Food Sensation
But, for one on the pursuit of the pleasures of the table, the most consummate of dining experiences in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is at a Belgian restaurant called Le Grand Rêve, owned and managed by a Belgian-Ethiopian husband and wife team.
Ken, who is from Belgium, conjures an absolute feast for the senses. There’s succulent local bred duck breast, or Le Grand Rêve’s incredibly thick, but amazingly tender and juicy local beefsteaks; melt-in-the-mouth foie gras, also locally sourced; creamy lobster and fish dishes, imaginative vegetable creations, pasta sensations, and mixed salads.
For dessert, nothing beats their mousse au chocolat, made from Belgian chocolates. Ken also makes tarte au sucre or Belgian sugar tart, fruit tarts, chocolate cream éclairs, crème brulée, ice creams, and other sweet surprises.
So, whether one is a first-timer, or an old-timer, Addis Ababa has a lot to offer, in terms of fine dining, or eating out on a budget.