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I have been going to Ethiopian restaurants for 25 years

Gojo Ethiopian Restaurant

by Dave S. | Vancouver, BC | 1/23/2015

I have been going to Ethiopian restaurants for 25 years and when I find a place that has great food as well as great service that impresses me, then it becomes my ‘Ethiopian home’. Over the years, great restaurants and some not so great have come and gone in Vancouver.

After Lalibela in North Burnaby closed its doors at the end of June 2011, an establishment which I had frequented 2-3 times a month, I began the arduous search for somewhere new to get my regular fixation of Ethiopian cuisine. I had been through this search before, as on and off over the years, I would revisit the various restaurants in East Vancouver and Burnaby but for whatever reasons I was not compelled to go on a regular basis nor recommend.

Then one night, two years ago (January 2013), I was driving along the south end of Commercial Drive and suddenly spotted a small Ethiopian place tucked away which I had never heard of before. This was the Gojo Little African Café. I stopped to try them out – and haven’t gone anywhere else since.

My comparison test for any Ethiopian restaurant when I try them for the first time is their doro wat. I feel you can tell a lot about an Ethiopian restaurant by how good (or bad) their doro wat is.

Doro wat (chicken stew) along with the famous kitfo (minced raw beef) are what can be considered the classic national dishes of Ethiopian cuisine. The doro wat that I had at Gojo that first night simply astounded me; the best I had ever had. Naturally it came with the traditional inclusion of a whole, hardboiled egg which is expected with doro wat – but what really impressed me was the thickness of the stew. Quite often a meat wat (stew) can be a little runny or oily, but the doro wat at Gojo has a real substantial heartiness to it, which really brings out the flavour without having to be excessively spicy.

Every Ethiopian restaurant has dishes which you can say are unique to each restaurant and not found on menus elsewhere – and Gojo is no different in that regards. The two dishes that come to mind here are bozena shiro (chickpea sauce with cubed beef) and gojo firfir (beef and injera pieces all in a clear butter sauce). At first look, firfir may appear a little plain compared to other dishes but looks can deceive and it does have great flavour. I like it best when I want something not too spicy. Gojo also make a fish gulash as their house speciality but I have yet to try it.

The standard dishes you would expect to see on the menu at any Ethiopian restaurant are all there, the various meat tebs and awaze. Along with the expected doro wat, they have the beef stew equivalent which is called besiga wat.

What also really got me hooked on Gojo is their vegetarian dishes. As a rule, I am not a huge fan of vegetarian food but their vegetarian dishes have won me over. I never liked cabbage in any form until I had theirs in their veggie combo plate. If you are really hungry, the veggie combo goes great with a side of shiro wat (chickpea sauce stew). They do some great vegetarian and meat combos which are perfect for sharing – so you have all the typical vegetarian sides along with besiga wat (beef stew). Another great vegetable-meat combo dish which I have recent taken a liking to is their gomen besega wat (collared greens, sautéed onions, with spiced beef cubes).

Lastly, but perhaps also most importantly: the injera bread. The light and spongy bread so unique to Ethiopian cuisine is such an essential, fundamental element to any Ethiopian meal, that good or bad injera can often make or break a meal. The injera at Gojo is excellent, fresh and light with the right amount of sourness to be expected from the teff grain.

Overall, what I like about Gojo most is their food tastes and comes across to me to be authentic home cooking. And, as I mentioned earlier, for me to call an Ethiopian restaurant my ‘home’, not only does it have to win me with their food – but also with their service. Gojo has done that with their always welcome smile and friendly service!

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