Monday, 4 June 2012

Restaurant Review: Nyala

Location: Level one, 356 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
Phone: 03 9419 9128
Cuisine: African
Overall Impression: 6.5/10

Nyala African restaurant is a brilliant African restaurant on Brunswick Street. Don’t let the entrance deter you from entering though. It certainly looks a little scary on the outside (all you can see is a dirty glass door and a flight of stair behind it) but should you dare to enter, you will find at the top, a charming African restaurant. 

The décor is unmistakably African influenced. Cotton fabrics with floral-like motives adorn the tables and African themed paintings brighten the pale white walls. The ceiling is wood with fans hanging from them. There is a glorious array of colours from the lantern-like lights and it seriously puts you in the mood for an African feast.

Mountain Bread
J and I were disappointed to find out that you needed at least a table of four to have the banquet but we soon realised we could make our own little banquet if we chose the “combination” entrees and mains.
Mixed Combination Entree of Baboutie, Deberja, Ful and Lentils

For entrée we chose the Mixed Combination (any Four combination of dips and entrees) – We chose the Baboutie, Deberja, Ful and Lentils. Our favourite was the Baboutie which is a South African specialty made from mincemeat, fruit Chutney, sultanas, almonds and other spices. It was full of flavour and went beautifully with the delicately thin mountain bread it was served with. There was depth and complexity in the flavour of the Baboutie. It had a hint of sweetness that complemented the overall savouriness of the dish. The almonds added a nice textural element to the dish and the spices brought a lovely flavour and were well balanced. Like all of our courses, it was also very hearty. It was certainly the highlight of our evening.

Meat Mixed Combination Main
For mains we chose a combination of meat and vegetarian courses. Our meat courses consisted of Kuku Na Nazi (A Kenyan dish of chicken, coconut, curry and mild spices), Beg Tibs (Marinated and spiced lamb sizzling cubes sautéed with fresh Tomato, Rosemary and white wine) and Nyala Special (a traditional Ethiopian stew of lean, boneless beef, finely chopped fresh ginger, garlic and homemade peri peri with other spices). These were all good and had very familiar flavours (they reminded me a lot of Indonesian and Indian curries) but we were surprisingly full from our entrées to really enjoy this. It was strange but we found the food to be very substantial even though the serving sizes were relatively normal. In fact, we took away what we couldn’t finish for lunch the next day and experienced the same thing!  
Vegetarian Mixed Combination Main
Our Vegetarian dishes included Furari (a Tanzanian vegetarian dish of cabbage, potato, carrot and seasonal vegetables cooked with mild spices, topped with coconut milk) and Gomen (freshly cooked silver beet and potatoes with garlic, ginger and other spices). These were delicious. They really do know how to immerse and infuse flavour into their vegetables. Each vegetarian dish was different in flavour but they all shared one thing in common - all the vegetables had been cooked to the point where they simply melted in your mouth and were incredibly tender. The flavours from the herbs and spices were unique and very enjoyable to eat. 
The Injera that we were served was beautifully light and fluffy and sponged up the delicious sauces from our mains.
As full as we were, J and I did not want to leave without having tasted their desserts.  I preferred the Tafach Mooz over the Sweet couscous but neither of the two truly impressed. Although pleasant to eat, the desserts were very one dimensional in flavour.
Sweet couscous – Morrocan speciality. Delicious fine semolina dish, served with slivered almonds, sultanas, icing sugar, unsalted butter and served with ice cream.
Tafach Mooz – East African favourite. An exotic name for “sweet bananas”, is a product of layers of bananas, brown sugar, cream cheese and cinnamon, lightly baked.
Overall, this was a very enjoyable dining experience. I only wish the dishes were not as filling because it was difficult to resist the temptation to overeat even though I could feel my body telling me I had had more than enough. Apart from that minor detail, the service was warm and friendly, the ambience was great and the food was more than satisfying. I will certainly be back again (so I can get my hands on more Baboutie and Injera).

Nyala African on Urbanspoon

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