When I traveled to Loveland, for obvious reasons I was constantly on the lookout for halal cuisine. Now halal cuisine, you can find none in Loveland, the closest place to get it is in Fort Collins.
As far as I know of, there were three eateries that were halal in Fort Collins. Bangkok Kitchen was one, but it no longer is after it changed owner and renamed to Cafe de Bangkok. Then there is another kebab place which I will write about in the future.
And then there is this restaurant, Nyala Ethiopian Cuisine.
You guys know Ethiopia, right? Right?? Ethiopia is a country in East Africa. It is the first African country to embrace Christianity. There is a theory that the final resting place of the Ark of the Covenant is in Ethiopia. In fact, they even have a Chapel of the Ark of the Covenant in this country.
Anyway, back to the restaurant. The first time we came here was in 2011. None of us have ever had African cuisine before, so we did not know what to expect. I found this restaurant online, where there were a bunch of positive reviews on how authentic and delicious the food here are. But as we all know, online reviews are good for nothing these days…
So, we entered the place, and was greeted by a black woman. You see, I wanted to say African woman to avoid sounding racist, but there are so many black people in America and not all of them are African so if I say African, it would also appear racist, anyhow we can’t win against overly sensitive people. I did not ask if she is Ethiopian or even African, but let’s just assume that she is.
There are two types of seating arrangements which we can choose. The normal western setup, or traditional African setup.
The traditional setup looked somewhat too small for us, so we took pictures of it, and then opted for a normal western table.
Let’s talk about the drinks. All of us ordered the Ethiopian Spiced Tea.
It is very difficult for me to describe the taste. If you have ever had those Indian Chai Tea, this one’s a bit stronger in terms of the spice aroma.
Now let’s talk about the food. I find that they have a website with an extensive menu now (you can also find their location and contact number in the website by the way). But back then, the menu was rather simple. There were only a few different meat options, or a vegetarian option. You order based on which type of meat you want.
Once our orders were taken, we were immediately served this.
Injera bread is a sourdough based flat bread which is sort of an Ethiopian staple. Everyone gets a plate of these.
We were so used to being served bread as appetizer while waiting for our orders to be executed in the kitchen, so we thought it was the same here. The bread was quite nice to be honest, so we tucked in happily.
Then our orders arrived. I ordered the lamb dish, but basically all of them looked more or less the same like below.
So what’s in this plate of food? There’s lamb wot (stewed lamb with Ethiopian spices), gomen (marinated collard greens) and yekik alicha (yellow split peas), served on top of another piece of injera bread.
My first mouthful was NOT a pleasant experience. The meats were basically too strongly flavored with spices. At first I thought that maybe this is what Ethiopian cuisine is. And then I noticed our server’s chagrin as she spotted our empty plates of bread. She quickly served us more bread and explained to us how this works.
Basically, the bread served beneath all these food is the base that absorbs the gravy. Those plates of bread that we were served earlier, we were supposed to use them to wrap these food in to eat.
So we did as we were taught, and immediately it became better. The sourdough flatbread countered the heavy spices nicely, and I found myself beginning to enjoy the meal.
I wouldn’t say that it became one of my favorite cuisine though. I suppose Ethiopian spices are something of an acquired taste. I can handle it, but I suppose I didn’t leave the restaurant wanting more. It was alright though…