“Come share a truly unforgettable East African dining experience right here on Vancouver Island without having to travel thousand of miles.’
That’s what owner Michael Isaac says about eating at his Blue Nile East African Restaurant. I think he’s absolutely right.
If you’ve never been to Africa, or eaten African food, I highly recommend you start your journey by coming to Blue Nile.
You can taste the African food, hear their music, and feel like you’ve experienced a bit of their culture, just buy taking a short trip out to the west side of Victoria.
When you first walk into the restaurant, you will see the wonderful decor, with many wooden African masks and pictures on the walls.
The bar at the far end of the restaurant has also got a lot of African character.
When I first sat down I was asked if I wanted anything to drink. I was really thirsty and saw that they served “exotic fresh juice” so I ordered the “Guava Juice” ($2.75).
They also had mango and lychee juice on the menu, as well as beer (including two from Africa) and wine too.
I don’t think I’ve ever had Guava juice so I had nothing to compare it to, but boy was it ever yummy!
It was sweet and refreshing, and as it turned out, a good compliment to some of the spicier food I ate from the buffet.
Speaking of buffet, Blue Nile has a really great one that they serve most every night now.
In fact, I was told that they don’t really use their menu anymore as you can get pretty much everything on it from the buffet.
The buffet consists of twelve different dishes, plus salad and the traditional Ethiopian “Injera” bread. For only $14.95, it’s a pretty good deal.
Each dish is labeled at the buffet, but as the names are Ethiopian, you might not know what each dish is.
If you are unsure, just ask Asmeret, the very friendly server (who also happens to be the chef and owner Michael’s wife).
She can tell you whether or not something is spicy too, as some dishes have a bit of bite to them.
My favourite dishes are the “Zebhi Dorho” and the “Aletcha”.
Zebhi Dorho is chicken served in a slightly spicy sauce and lightly seasoned. I’ve eaten here before and the chicken is always really tender and the spicing is perfect; not too mild and not too spicy.
Aletcha is a mix of potatoes and vegetables flavoured with a blend of herbs. It sounds pretty plain but I always enjoy this, especially on the Injera bread.
That’s one neat thing about eating this type of African food, is that you can eat it with your hands.
You see, Injera is like an eating utensil, as you use it to pick up your food off your plate.
Just tear a piece of it off and grab whatever you like. No forks or spoons necessary!
Actually, the way Injera is used in Ethiopian is as a plate as well.
So it’s actually the food, eating utensil and plate, all at the same time.
As you can see in the picture, I ate my Aletcha this way and it was really tasty. The texture of the Injera makes it really good at soaking up all the extra sauce on your plate too.
In addition to the Zebhi Dorho and the Aletcha, I also tried some “Hamli Kawlo” and “Hamli Zebhi”.
Hamli Kawlo is cabbage, potatoes and carrots cooked in a mild caramelized onion sauce. I thought it tasted pretty good, and if you like cabbage you will probably like this dish.
The Hamli Zebhi was also good. It is spinach sauteed with onions, ginger, and garlic mixed with a blend of exotic spices.
As you can tell, there are plenty of dishes at Blue Nile for vegetarians. They also have lentils on the buffet which are good, but I find them a bit spicy.
If you happen to have a bit of room left in your stomach after the awesome buffet, you should ask Asmeret about dessert.
As I said before, they don’t often have menus out, but she does serve some amazing homemade ice cream that I just had to try.
They have two choices, either mango or cappuccino flavour.
I was lucky to get to try both.
Normally I’m not a huge mango fan but wow, I loved the ice cream Asmeret made! I really liked the cappuccino as well. It was very nice finish to my dinner.
Overall I have to say that Blue Nile has a great African atmosphere and awesome food. If you’ve never tried Ethiopian food, this is the place to eat.
The only small downside of this restaurant is that it’s not located in downtown Victoria, but once you’ve been here, you’ll realize it’s well worth the little extra drive.
IN A NUTSHELL…
Blue Nile East African Restaurant
Address: 612 Head St., Victoria
Phone: (250) 475-NILE (6453)
Hours: Tues – Sun 5 pm – 9 pm ** Closed Mondays
Price: $$ ($10-$15 per entree)