I used to be a regular at the Messob d'Or. I also liked Magdala/Mekdala on Bishop especially when it first opened and Teshome (the former co-owner and chef from Messob d'Or) was in charge of the kitchen. Sadly since both of those places closed I had not been able to find a satisfying Ethiopian experience in Montreal. The Nil Bleu's cuisine is too variable and the flavours just aren't right for my tastes.
I have to say that I am extremely impressed with East Africa. The Minchet'Abish (fenugreek based stew - #10 on their menu) is the best I have ever tasted (yes even better than the one at the Messob d'Or). I highly recommend it. Their Key Sega Wat (#4- spicy beef cube stew) is also amazing.
Note that their Boutitcha (#25) is more the traditional Boutitcha (i.e. made with chick pea flour instead of mashed chick peas) you find in Ethiopian cookbooks than what the Messob had gotten us used to but it is delicious.
Other dishes I would highly recommend are the gommen (#21 - spinach in spiced clarified butter) and azifa (#24 - cold lentil salad).
For the kitfo addicts out there, it is available if you warn them a day in advance or if they are not too busy. In the latter case they will actually go out and get the meat so that it is as fresh as possible.
As others have mentioned the restaurant is tiny but if you manage to go on an off night then you will get the chance to actually chat with the owners. They are a mom-and-pop operation (literally!) and are waiting to see if they can get a regular following before investing in a larger space or hiring actual staff and who can blame them in the current Montreal restaurant market.
I strongly urge any fan of Ethiopian / Eritrean cuisine to try this place. It's the best food of this genre in the city right now and easily rivals what the Messob d'Or used to serve. Please be indulgent on the owners if you get there on a busy night and they are slightly overwhelmed.
Right now they are closed for lunch unless you ask them to open (i.e. make reservations). The phone numbers also are their personal cell phone numbers which is why sometimes they work and sometimes they don't. I have no fear that given a regular clientele they will be able to invest in a larger restaurant and hire staff to help them meet the growing crowds.
So my DH and I checked out the restaurant yesterday and the Teshome Belachew's food is still absolutely amazing!!!
The restaurant still has to tweak stuff a bit, notably the name of the restaurant which appears on different items as Magdala, Meqdella and Mekdella. They still don't have a sign outside so you need to know the address (1222 Bishop) and the wait staff, as Moosemeat reported, is so far clueless about the food (or how to operate a Visa machine) but hopefully that will change in time.
The menu will also change in the coming month so we have to wait a bit for things to reach equilibrium. For example Bouticha (the chick pea salad which looks like egg salas) is absent though Teshome says it will be added soon. Also the Lega Tibs on the menu only appears as being made with beef when lamb is also available upon request. Basically I would not be afraid to ask if you want something that used to be on the Messob's menu but appears differently here.
There are a lot of new items that did not exist on the Messob's menu, notably apetizers. We tried the fitfit which is an injera based salad (injera, tomatoes, peppers, some type of vinegar and spices). We didn't try anything else new because we were too desperate to have the usual favorites after nearly a year of severe withdrawal.
In addition to the fitfit apetizer, we had the following dishes which were all up to the Messob's standards:
Kitfo, Key (Sega) Wat, (Ye)messer Wat, Azifa, Bouticha, Minchet'Abish, Gomen, Lega tibs (lamb version), the yellow pea stew and the mixed veggies.
They now have very interesting combination dishes which are perfect when you go only 1 or 2 people and want to sample a bit of everything.
The manager said that they hope to open for lunch to in a couple of months and basically be open from noon to midnight from Tuesday to Sunday (yes it seems that once again it will be closed on Sundays). They are also hoping to get the bar/lounge thing going. Take out is available and they are also working on getting some kind of delivery going too.
The setting is much more upscale than the Messob was. Over half the restaurant has Messobs and comfy armchairs that come directly from Ethiopia although there are also regular Western tables for those who prefer that. The bathrooms are quite funky with glass sink and frosted glass stalls. They were also spotless when we visited.
The kitchen is an open kitchen toward the back. If you stand on the stairs to the second floor you can easily see them preparing the food which is quite neat.
All in all a very positive experience!
This is great news! I was completely addicted to the Messob (so much so that I formed a Facebook group about it: can't paste the link here so just search for Messob d'or on Facebook and you will find it). I managed to stay faithful to the Belachew's amazing food and haven't gone to the Nile Bleu in the interim but I was seriously experiencing withdrawal. I will go check out the new place tomorrow and let you know how it compares to the old place.
Thank you so much for posting this :-D