One of the best things about living in Montreal is being surrounded by diversity. We can easily be immersed by different nations through festivals, movies, literature and art, but one of my favorite ways to learn about a culture is through food. Nothing beats savouring exotic spices and smelling new aromas, which is why Le Nil Bleu is a must-try if you are looking to (re)discover Ethiopian cuisine. It’s the perfect place to go on a date, with friends or to celebrate.
Located on the edge of Le Plateau, on St-Denis Street, Le Nil Bleu is a little slice of oasis in a fast pace city. The décor, which is absolutely stunning, combines today’s modern style with hints of Ethiopian culture. Walking in, you instantly notice zebra print chairs who are not only gorgeous but comfortable too. Beautiful artworks meticulously placed across the establishment drifts you to a place you never want to leave. The subtle lounge music gives a laid-back ambiance, making you feel at ease as soon as you set foot inside.
Used to having clients eat Ethiopian food for the first time, the staff is very helpful and knowledgeable. Our waitress, Myriam, suggested we try their tasting menu for two. She took the time to explain that it includes 80% of their menu, allowing us to try a wide variety of traditional Ethiopian dishes. She also informed us the tasting menu offers two options: vegan or with meat. Since nowadays we can mix and match pretty much anything, and because we always want to try as many things as possible, we opted for vegan appetizers and main course with meat.
As soon as our vegan appetizers were served, we noticed they came with rolled up injeras, a traditional Ethiopian bread. Everything is to be eaten using injera and the oldest utensils known to man: your fingers. That’s right! No fork and knife needed here. If you’re looking for a place to go on a date and aren’t used to eating with your hands, don’t cross this restaurant off your list. Helping each other grab every savoury morsel makes the perfect team building exercise. If that fails, it’s always amusing to watch your date flop at eating with a piece of injera (or is that just me?). You can also ask for utensils, which we eventually did, and not feel bad. The waiter was pretty sweet about it.
Served on a wooden board, our appetizers included bouticha (chick pea puree with garlic & lemon) resting on a bed of marinated and purred eggplant, yetimatim (tomato salad with green chillies and ginger) and caramelized vegetables with Ethiopian spices. Everything looked and smelled delicious. We knew it was going to taste it too. The texture of the chick pea purée combined with pieces of marinated eggplant made the mixture absolutely divine. As soon as the flavors hit my taste buds, I was sold. The tomato salad was refreshing while still being able to savour that little hint of ginger. It’s settled: Ethiopian cuisine is filled with wonderful and mysterious aromas. The chef succeeded in creating a buzz for the main course. We were eager to see what would come next.
Our waitress arrived at our table with a large round dish filled with goodness. We were served generous portions of lamb, chicken and filet mignon along with lentils, sautéed cabbage, potatoes & carrots, spinach with onions & garlic, and a salad in the middle of the dish. It was all exquisite! There wasn’t a dish we didn’t like. The lamb and chicken were moist and had great flavors, as did the filet mignon. It was cut into strips (in order to grab it better with some injera) and cooked perfectly. Our lentils were delightful and had a little heat to it without being overpowering. The spices added made the sautéed vegetables taste exotic and amazing. We devoured everything, even the injera that was laid flat at the bottom. We didn’t want to miss a bite, ignoring the fact we were already full.
I love their concept of small portion desserts. No matter how full I am, I have to have something sweet after I eat. After a lovely meal like the one we just had, it’s nice to be able to get your dose of sugar without feeling guilty. Myriam came up to our table with a platter filled with a variety of cube-sized cakes. My date opted for the dark chocolate and green tea cake. We obviously shared because, as everyone knows, sharing is caring. I usually don’t like green tea cakes but this one was great. The combination of it with dark chocolate created a perfect balance. It made sure the green tea flavor wouldn’t overpower it and vice-versa. After eating the dessert and sipping on an Ethiopian digestive made of honey, included in the tasting menu, I was in sugar heaven.
Le Nil Bleu is a restaurant that has to be on your must-try list. It’s now in my must-go-again list. It’s also home to a famous hotel, the prices of which can be seen (and compared) on websites such astrivago.ca. Whether you’re familiar with Ethiopian cuisine or never tried it, Le Nil Bleu is where you’ll get attentive service and eat great food while having a good time. What more could you ask for?
Le Nil Bleu
3706, rue St-Denis