First off, let me say I was grossly overdue to visit WASS. One of my oldest friends Jason (good lord Jay it’s over 20 years now) had recommended it to me around March of 2010. The restaurant itself has been open since late 2009. They specialize in Ethiopian cuisine. That alone caught my interest. I had an opportunity to sample some of their food when I popped into the Food & Drink Show in the summer. I had some of their Lamb Wat (stew) and it was fantastic. It reminded me very much of the curried goat my mother makes from time to time. I’ve always meant to hit WASS up, especially considering it’s not even a 10 minute walk from my place but didn’t get around to it until today.
I came in around 2pm. Their lunch and dinner menu are the same and I didn’t want to eat anything potentially heavy at night so this seemed ideal. The first thing I noticed walking in the door was how amazing the smell was. It reminded me of home on a Sunday afternoon with various food being cooked. I was greeeted by an extraordinarily upbeat lady. She asked if it was my first time there and offered to guide me if I needed a hand with choices or how to eat the food. The dining area is adorned with Afrian artwork. There’s was various ethnic music playing from the kitchen as well. It creates a great atmosphere. When seated, you’ll note there’s no cutlery. You eat the food with your hands.
Welcome to Injera. It’s a cold spongy type of bread. WASS is good enough to give you a MASSIVE portion of it with just about every dish you order. There are helpful instructions in their menu showing how you tear pieces and then use the Injera to scoop your food. It’s actually a fun process. Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t deal with the texture of the Injera at all. I distinctly remember being put off by the texture back at the Food & Drink Show and this was no different. Maybe I’ve spent too much time with North American food but I typically like my breads to be crispy in some way. Even something along the the lines of a Paratha shell would have been preferred. I took a pass on the Injera after a couple of helpings. It should be noted that if Injera isn’t your cup of tea (slice of bread?) then you can request rice as a substitute.
Hakim Stout – $6
I’m more of a green bottle guy but didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to try a beer brewed in Ethiopia. Typically the smell more than anything puts me off of stout beers but this was great. I can’t really give an educated opinion on the taste past “I enjoyed it.” They have Heineken on the menu and I’d likely get that the next time I pop in.
WASS Special – $15
This picture doesn’t do the sheer size of this dish justice. It was HUGE! In fact, this is enough food for 2 hungry people or possibly 3. I was ill prepared for how much food was being brought out. It came on a sizzling skillet. The dish was comprised of cuts of lamb and ribs mixed with onions, peppers and rosemary. While it tasted fine, I found it a little tough. The West Indian style pressure cooks the hell out of beef, goat, lamb as they can be very chewy. This definitely fell on that side of the chew spectrum (who says that?). The seasoning they use was great and the veggies fit nicely. However, I was done 1/2 way through. It was too tough and simply too large for me to take down. The poor girl serving me looked disappointed that I didn’t care to take it home. It’s obvious they put a lot of hard work and care into their food.
Shuro Wat – $11
I took this dish to go (excuse the presentation). When I first saw this I thought “looks like baby food” and was a bit put off. Well don’t let looks deceive you. THIS WAS FANTASTIC! It’s pureed Chic Peas in Berbere Sauce. This dish is FIRE! It hits you in three waves. The initial taste of AWESOME. Then you get a real sense of the garlic in the seasoning. Then the heat kicks you in the mouth. I’m a big fan of spicy food and this was exactly the amount of heat that I really enjoy. It’s spicy but not painful like you might fear. It came with 2 Injera but I passed on using them. I ate 1/2 of the serving (seen here) and used the other half with some penne that I’ll eat for lunch tomorrow. Again, like the WASS Special, the serving was HUGE. You definitely get value for your money.
I’ve got mixed feelings on my first visit to WASS. I could eat the Shuro Wat weekly without a second thought. However, the rest of my experience was lacking. I don’t care for the texture of Injera or the way that the WASS Special was cooked. On the former point, I know that’s the way it is and it’ll never change. On the latter though, I would hope it was just poor prep on the dish that day as I can’t envision too many liking meat that chewy. There’s a myriad of choices both for meat eaters and vegetarians (including vegan dishes if you so choose) so I can honestly say I’ll pop back into WASS again sometime.