Being caught up in the cyclonic whirlwind of today’s technological age is a blessing and a curse.It separates us from core belief systems we are afforded during childhood.The simple pleasures in life.. like the touch from a loved one, having a laugh and sharing precious moments become lost in the daily routine.Lessons learn’t become background noise and softly fade into the past.
But do not fear as“Saba’s Ethiopian Restaurant”will rectify that! Realizing family friends community are all central to living a fulfilling happy life, Saba invites us back to a time before we became so self absorbed and disconnected, through the simple act of sharing food.Although this simplicity can sometimes be confronting, especially if you mix in today’s”social norms”it is well worth it.So take your social medication!
What is Saba’s and what’s on the menu-
Saba’s is an Ethiopian restaurant hosting a varied range of food species including Vegetarian Vegan and Meat,all with gluten free goodness inside.Most dishes are served inside a woven round wicker basket called a”Mesob”.
When the lid of the Mesob is removed you are presented with the Injera Bread which forms the basis for many of the meals at “Saba’s Restaurant”.
Each component is placed onto the Injera bread, one bowl at a time.
The green flag drops and it’s time to eat 🙂
Did I mention they have desserts!
The menu remains constant throughout the year incorporating specials from time to time.The menu can be found >here<These are unlike the typical specials from a normal restaurant (i.e yesterday’s leftovers)and are truly special.
Akin to capturing a rare Pokemon you should snatch them up straight away, as to not miss them.The specials sometimes include the most popular meals from Ethiopia;an offal based dish called “Tripa” and the Ethiopian version of Steak Tartare the “Kitfo”are some of the unique dishes on offer.
The idea of “Saba Restaurant”didn’t appear by sheer happenstance,nor did it merely pop into the imagination like a comical light bulb.In fact it was a series of events which lead up to the opening of Saba’s first Ethiopian restaurant.
In the days before “S.R” Saba Alemayoh invited friends to try her mother’s cooking all made from her country’s traditional recipes.These were such a great hit she decided to sell the main cooking component “Teff Flour”to numerous health food stores,coinciding with the operation of a small catering service.
The driving force behind the opening of Saba’s was not so much the food in and of itself but the chance to share her proud cultural heritage.With the help from her friend Sebla Afewerk and her mum Tekebash as head chef they started Saba’s and the rest is history.
But what’s it taste like-
We ordered the Spiced White Tea as a starter for the night…
Spiced White Tea (ውህተ ስፕቸድ ቴአ )The tea consists of black tea brewed in milk, combining cardamon cloves and cinnamon.Tasting similar to Chai tea,but has a skin on the surface similar to one formed on a custard mmmm delicious.
Dorho Sebhidዾርሆ ጸብሒ)Main component is the slow cooked Chicken which slides easily from the bone.Tucked away inside the dish is a hard-boiled egg.For people who enjoy a V-Hot spicy Chicken Vindaloo esk dish this one is for you(ask for extra heat)It has a very dark satisfying flavor.It is one dish I would gladly come back for.
Vegetarian Combination (ቨገታርአን ጮምብናትዖን) Vegetarian combo is a selection of 3 separate Vego dishes from the menu.My eating partner found the experience to be exciting when Saba personally delivered the two treasure trove baskets to our table.Similar to the traditional Filipino way of eating you also eat using your hands.At first may seem uncivilized but you will quickly adapt and you may also find it stimulating.
Teff Brownie(ተፍፍ ብሮውኔ )And then followed up by the final act. One must know their lines before committing their taste buds to the full onslaught of this sticky sweet chocolate devil.Made from Teff which gave it a heavier feel but adding to the experience at the same time.
Before you embark upon the food eating journey with your new found eating utensils take these points into account-
•Use your Finger tips and Teff rolls. Although you may think you can scoop more into the palm of your hand you will most likely like like a zoo animal.Instead it’s best to tear off a piece of the Teff bread using it as a scoop.Trust me it not only looks better you’ll get more to the target destination.
•Two hands?No sir.Only one hand required to eat as the other hand will be used as a stabilizer or auxiliary hand for refreshments etc.If you eat with both hands it will make as much sense as holding a toothbrush like a sword.
• Wash your hands Jeffery!!Even though you should always have clean hands before dinner, it is important you don’t forget to do the same in this case.Located on the table is a bowl of water (not to drink)but to clean your hands that way you don’t have to constantly excuse yourself and make b lines towards the rest rooms each time.
• Frankie sez RELAX!!you are here.. hopefully among your friends and loved ones so you should lower that shield.Roll up your sleeves and enjoy the cuisine.
Spices Used In the Mains-
Dilik – This is an Ethiopian chilli paste that combines 15-50 spices. Most households usually make their own paste about once a year. This is to Ethiopians what pasta is to Italians.
Tesmi – Ethiopian herb and spice infused clarified butter. This includes ginger, garlic and onion.
Berbere – Spice combination containing 80% chilli and 20 other spices.
All the fresh ingredients(perishable)are locally sourced, the spices and Teff come directly from Ethiopia.All meals are made from scratch.
What is this “Teff” you speak of?-
Teff is a grain grown in Ethiopia and Eritrea coming in numerous colors and about the size of a poppy seed.Teff also has mild nut flavor associated with it.Playing a central role in most Ethiopian diets and for good reason the nutritional content!Including protein iron calcium.It’s amazing how much health is derived from this poppy sized grain.The Teff we experienced was ground into flour and used in the Injera bread,which had a slight tang and pancake like texture keeping it structurally sound,making it ideal as a scoop.It is also 100%Gluten free
The fitout was a uniform affair which did well to complement the old with the new.
I felt the deep red color meshed well with the light whites and dark hues flecked from the furnishings ,encouraging a warm cozy feeling enticing me to stay a little longer.
Images laid out upon canvas hang from the walls..Small portals if you will granting us valuable insights on Ethiopia’s day to day life.But many more things are hidden in plain sight such as references to Ethiopian city’s on each of the tables.(No Awasa is not Ethiopian for serviette!)
Pictured above are hand made lamp shades made from untreated leather,decorated with traditional Ethiopian artwork.Large painted eyes are present on the many characters to which I am told is a specific style of art, tracing back to Ethiopia’s Christian heritage.Symbolizing the spiritual connection to god,kinda like windows to the soul.
Did you know: Africa is the second oldest Christian nation in the world with 80 different ethnicity’s.
The “Mesob”baskets are used to house and serve the food,with colors representing different regions.
The more colorful Mesob baskets originate from the more northern regions of Ethiopia.Whilst the plain monotone baskets usually come from deeper south.Gazing at the ones which decorate the wall I am reminded of a Mexican Sombrero those particular Mesob belong to Saba’s mother and cousins.
Should you come in?Are you crazy or something?Of course you should!Saba’s caters to a wide mix of people both young and old especially the health conscious.
Fitzroy is also a fitting location for Saba’s being a multicultural hub,a convergence for people of all cultures and ideas.
Some of the key points to remember are
- Gluten free food
- Celiac safe kitchen/cooking environment
- Catering for Vegan and Vegetarian
- Good location, easy to get to
- Respectable pricing
- Traditional/Authentic recipes
- Modern eating utensils upon request
- UN-intrusive respectful staff
Don’t let this unique dining experience pass you buy and drop into Saba’s.
Moving Into the Future-
If you enjoyed Saba’s restaurant be sure to try out their new venue opening soon in Carlton North.
Named the”Afra Hub” it will look at Africa as a whole.
Sporting many new things like African beers and wines, live music arts and crafts.
P:(03) 03 8592 4668
Saba’s Ethiopian Restaurant
328 Brunswick Street
Tue to Thur 5:30pm-10:30pm
Fri to Sun 12Noon-3pm 5:30-10:30pm
Melbourneyum.com dined as guests of Saba’s Ethiopian Restaurant All opinions are honest and true and are based our own experiences.