When I go out for dinner with friends, we always have an issue picking a restaurant. To narrow down the choices, the assigned interrogator would question "Fine. Do you feel more like Italian, Korean, Japanese, Thai, etc.?" But one of the things we hardly ever ask is "Do you feel like African?"
So when one of my friends mentioned Nyala to me, I thought it would be a good place to have dinner with my dad (who is a big fan of rice and curry). Located along hipster Brunswick Street, between Johnston Street and Alexandra Parade, we had some slight confusion finding the place; we could see a colourful banner announcing its presence between two other food places, but no sign of the restaurant. The only logical reason seemed that it was upstairs and we were correct.
This colourful, homely place was adorned with funky African deco and the atmosphere was jazzed up with some seductive drum beats. I am no expert (zero experience) in African cuisine, but the menu gave a comprehensive description of what to expect from each dish. If you are one of those people who are jinxed when it comes to trying out new dishes, I suggest having a look at the menu online before you go; there are colourful pictures that illustrate the different options. And as crazy as this sounds, what I ordered was exactly what I expected from looking at the picture.
The prices were about 20 dollars per main meal. I ordered a Nyala special which consisted of a traditional Ethiopian beef stew, Futari and Injera. The beef was rich and full of flavour, and the Injera (flat, round bread) was soft and fluffy. However my favourite was the Futari, a Tanzanian vegetarian dish made up of a fantastic mix of cabbage, carrot, potato topped with coconut milk. The savoury, yellow rice which my dad ordered was cooked to perfection.
My only criticism might be that the tables were a little small and it was a bit hard to juggle all the dishes. The portions were quite generous thus for those of you who (like me) eat like birds, I suggest sharing a few meals among friends and this way you will have some space left for appetiser and dessert. The Sambusa (triangular pastries filled with minced beef) and the Tafach Mooz (lightly baked bananas, cream cheese, brown sugar and cinnamon) caught my eye and are on top of the list for next time.
For anyone interested in African topics, the University of Melbourne Afrika Club are holding a Q&A youth forum next Tuesday 9th October, 2012 at 6.30pm. Please send any questions via the link and hope to see you there:https://www.facebook.com/#!/events/289695881135586/