Friday, May 10, 2013

Roses are red, the Nile is blue, and now I present le Nil Bleu to you - Nil Bleu

Aaaahhh, this blog is not dead, I swear! I've just been really busy with school and exams. But now that that's over with, I'll be bringing you some more ridiculous posts and delicious venues to eat at!

If any of you have been on urbanspoon a while back (maybe a year?), you're sure to have come across le Nil Bleu as either a nearby restaurant, or a recommended restaurant. I was curious to try it, but a little wary, as I am with all things heavily advertised. However, a few of my friends had recommended Nil Bleu to me, including a friend who normally doesn't stray too far from her culinary comfort zone. If I hadn't been interested in trying Ethiopian food before, her recommendation definitely piqued my interest. And so, when a coupon rolled around for Nil Bleu, I snatched it up as soon as I saw it.

Our coupon was $30 for $65 worth of food, but it came as a set meal. We got one appetizer plate, one main plate and two glasses of dessert wine. You had a choice of vegan or meat for both the appetizer and main plate. After taking a look at their regular menu, what you get is basically the tasting menu for half price, plus two glasses of dessert wine.

Service - Grade: B+
Our waiter was very courteous and professional. I was really expecting more of a homey, family-owned feel, but the restaurant is actually really classy-looking, with the service no less lacking. Our waiter, decked out in a suit and tie, took time to explain the menu to us and to answer all our questions.

Ambiance Notes

I have to say, I was expecting a more ethnic decor (zebra print notwithstanding) with tapestries a local decor. I definitely wasn't expecting crystalline chandeliers and a modern glass decor. As a mentioned above, the ambiance is pretty classy, and it seems like a nice place to bring a date, or maybe even business partners. If you and you're business partners are comfortable picking off the same plate with your hands...

Food - Grade: B+

Vegan appetizer plate
We started off with the vegan appetizer plate, which consisted of Yetimatim, Boutichika and marinated and sauteed vegetables, served with four rolls of injera. The injera is a large crepe-like bread made from sourdough.  It has an elastic spongy texture, and is quite porous on one side and flat and smooth on the other. We weren't entirely sure how to eat this at first, so we were scooping the ingredients onto pieces of the injera and eating it like that, but our waiter came back and told us that traditionally, you would use the injera to pick up pieces of the food and eat it like that. That's right, people. No utensils.

The yetimatim is a very light salad comprising of firm, chopped tomatoes, diced green pepper and onion, all drizzled with an olive oil and lemon juice dressing. It tastes as simple as it sounds, but it was so fresh-tasting that neither me nor my friend could stop picking at it even after we ran out of injera.

Bouticha is a chickpea puree with diced green peppers and onions, much like hummus. However, it has fluffier and creamier texture than hummus, much like whipped butter, and tastes more garlick-y. This one disappeared minutes after it was brought to us.

Marinated and sauteed vegetables
The third dish was a hot vegetable dish, despite it being called a house salad. The dish had a mix of zucchini, eggplant, peppers and peppers that had been sauteed until their outsides were caramelized. 

We ordered the meat combination platter as the main platter, which is again served with injera bread. We got a mix of lamb, beef and chicken, as well as a side of salad and sauteed spinach. This is completely based on guesswork at the moment, taken from the descriptions on the restaurant's website, but I think the dish with the egg on top is Doro Watt, a lightly spicy chicken dish simmered with onions and blended red peppers. The piles of greens above that is Gommen (the spinach), while the dish at the very top is Key Watt (mildly spicy beef in Berbere sauce). The dish at the far left is the Yebeg Alicha, described as lamb cooked with potatoes and carrots in a mild sauce, and the bottom-most one is the Zizil Tibb, which is strips of beef sauteed with butter, green pepper, spices and ginger. 

If you like stewed and curried meats, then you'll probably really enjoy these dishes.  The meats are all extremely tender, and each dish has its unique blend of spices and flavours. For example, the Zizil Tibb has a strong, spicy zing to it from the ginger that cuts the taste of the beef, making it taste lighter. 

Personally, I preferred the vegetarian appetizers to the meat dishes, because I thought the vegetarian dishes had more flavour. While the stewed meats were great at the beginning, too much of it did get a bit heavy, and some of them were a bit on the bland side. 

Cake pops
We finished off with two cake pops, which came at $3 apiece. They weren't included in the deal, but we got them to complement the dessert wine that came with the meal. My friend got the lemon meringue, while I got the coffee. The cakes are fudgey and dense and yummy, as cake pops are wont to be.

Dessert wine
We each got a glass of dessert wine, which was described as a type of honey mead. I don't usually enjoy drinking wine, since I find it too tart, but I actually enjoyed this! The wine is quite sweet, but still had that distinct, warming alcohol taste to it. It was a nice way to finish off a good meal.

Price - $$-$$$
The coupon we got was $29 for $60 worth of food. I checked the tasting menu on the restaurant website, and it says that it's $24.95 per person, but doesn't include the dessert wine. So if you chose to go for the tasting menu, then you might find yourself eating over-budget (if you're a student). They also give you the choice of ordering individual dishes, which range from $15-$20. They also have a tantalizing table d'hote menu, which I'd love to go back and try, for $20 per person.

Final Grade - B
I genuinely enjoyed my dining experience at le Nil Bleu. When it comes to trying new foods, I'm never quite sure whether it's the novelty that makes it more enjoyable, or whether the food itself is really that good. In the case of le Nil Bleu, I'd say it's a bit of both. Eating with your hands is fun any time of the day, but eating with your hands in a classy environment with yummy food? Now that's my idea of a Friday night!

Nil Bleu
3706 Rue St-Denis 
MontrealQC(514) 285-4628
Nil Bleu on Urbanspoon


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