Enjoy a truly cultural experience in one of Dubai’s most progressive neighborhoods at Gursha Ethiopian Restaurant
Ethiopian cuisine has been gaining a whole new level of popularity globally off late and this is with good reason. The usage of highly nutritious native vegetables, spices and meat make Ethiopian cuisine one of the most unique and delicious cuisines in the world. What’s more, the Ethiopian national staple food – the Injera, is made of highly nutritious and gluten-free teff grain. This grain indigenous to the Ethiopian region, is known to contain a very high proportion of fiber — more than any other grain on Earth. It is also a complete source of protein, iron and calcium. These healthy properties coupled with the variety in culinary choices make Ethiopian food one of world’s more favored food choices.
Sadly, if there’s one cuisine in Dubai that most people haven’t tried, it’s probably Ethiopian. With only a handful restaurants serving traditional Ethiopian food, the kind of exposure this unique and extraordinarily flavourful cuisine has got is abysmal. But hopefully things are going to change, thanks to Gursha Ethiopian Restaurant, the new-old gem of the palms that is all set to kick up a food revolution in Dubai with its unique and extraordinary offerings.
I had an opportunity last month to visit this laid back and chic bistro in Palm Jumeirah and experience a slice of Ethiopian culture – at its best!
What is it about food that brings us together?
We are living in a world with some 7000 estimated languages. But there is one thing that binds us all together- Food. Food has remained the single universal language – bringing people together, forging bonds and creating conversation. Despite this social and cultural significance of sharing meals, today the very idea of a shared meal table is becoming a relic of the past. In this busy life we are forgetting the pleasures of sharing an intimate meal with our near and dear ones.
Gursha Ethiopian Restaurant, Dubai is striving really hard to revive this tradition in all its former glory. Through amazing food, remarkable service, extraordinary ambiance and pepperings of rich Ethiopian culture, it is trying to bring back that community feeling, warmth, and intimacy of a shared meal
The Ethiopian Culinary Tradition – Gursha
Food is not meant to be eaten alone in the culture of Ethiopia. It is to be eaten with friends and family. In fact, the food itself is served, on a large communal platter designed to be shared by a group of people who often feed each other. Yes. taste aside one of the most remarkable aspect of the Ethiopian food culture is “Gursha” – the act (tradition) of taking a morsel of food from a large community platter, wrapping it in the injera and placing it into the mouth of someone else at the table, thereby creating a special connection with the meal and with the person it is eaten with.
The word Gursha itself means “mouthful” in Amharic as it involves feeding a very large portion of meal to the fellow diner. According to Olyad Tadele – the restaurant manager. “Traditionally the elderly or the guests at someone’s home would often receive the first Gursha as a mark of respect” The person receiving a Gursha is called the gorash, and the giver is the agurash. His interview is below
Get ready to get your hands dirty, feed and be fed
More than a simple sustenance exercise, dining together is a truly bonding experience for the Ethiopians – a sign of deep friendship and love that keeps them together. Located in the bustling neighbourhood of Vista Mare in Palm Jumeirah, Gursha Ethiopian Restaurant is built on this very premise of communal dining.
Gursha Ethiopian Restaurant presents the milieu for you to bring in your family and friends for an indulgent and truly intimate culinary extravaganza. Here you can enjoy a completely traditional yet extremely unique dining experience and carry back memories for a lifetime. The friendly and attentive staff, the artistic and chic ambiance and the rib tickling food all combine together to take you on a gastronomic journey to the African heartland Ethiopia.
What to eat?
First off, it’s okay if you haven’t heard of or tried Ethiopian cuisine before. Gursha’s skilled manager Olyad Tadele and his well-trained staff are there to guide you through the details from the very moment you step in. Get a beer, enjoy the art collections that adorn the walls, listen to some African hip-hop and while your at it, Tadele’s friendly staff will connect the dots between Ethiopia and Dubai for you.
We decided to do just that – ordered some Heineken, relished on some baked chick peas as the waiters kept strutting to and from our table, making sure we felt completely at home. I must admit – the crunchy baked chick peas tasted just amazing. “Baked dries instead of the usual unhealthy fries”, my partner quipped as I waited in much excitement for my Ethiopian supper.
The starters and then, the BIG platter
For starters, we had Azifa – a vinegar soaked salad dish with green lentil, injera and garlic herb cream. The garlic flavour was a tad over powering however it was perfect for a garlic lover like me. We also tried Suf FitFit another vegan delight which had Injera pieces sopped in tomato, onion and pepper.
For the main course we went by the recommendations of Olyad Tadele, the restaurant manager who suggested that we try both the veg and non-vegetarian platter. Gursha Ethiopian Restaurant offers vegetarian, non vegetarian and vegan. We went for a vegetarian and meat lovers combination platter.
Injera – The Bread
Both our platters came with 4 neatly-rolled sourdough breads called Injera. A national dish the injera forms the basis for nearly all Ethiopian meals. Made out of teff flour – a gluten free and naturally vegan grain – Injera is often both the plate and then ‘torn-up-and-used’ kind of scoop for whatever you have with it. Sauces and dishes are usually poured on top of the Injera and then used as a carrier to transport the deliciousness from the plate to the mouth.
Though the breads were a little too sour for my liking, my companion totally enjoyed the novelty of the dish. We learnt that in making injera, the teff flour is mixed with water and left to ferment for several days on end which gives the bread a distinctly sour taste.
Prima Facie it resembled the Indian Dosa – also a flatbread cooked in a circle and used as a base for other foods. The taste and texture however compared to the South Indian Appam. The bottom surface of the bread had a relatively smooth texture while the top was porous. Depending on the teff variety used, we were told Injera comes in both darker and lighter colours.
Non Vegetarian platter
My favorite dish on the menu, Doro Wat seemed to blend in all the richness of Ethiopian cuisine in one bowl. Apart from the thick rich and spicy gravy, its the chicken leg quarters and hard-boiled egg that sealed the deal for me. This popular chicken dish is seasoned with onions, garlic, ginger, clarified butter, pepper cloves, berbere – the works! The end result is a curry layered in flavors and character. This dish reminded me or rather rested my long-unsettled argument of whether the chicken came first or the egg. Here it hardly mattered and in fact the argument inside me was to whether I should eat the chicken leg first or the egg. I put all confusions aside and slow-chewed the egg. I must admit, it was boiled to such a delightful and divine perfection that I got totally immersed in its taste. 5/5 for this dish. The injera was a good accompaniment however the Indian in me wished I had some steamed rice option available to enjoy this more.
This dish is basically minced raw beef marinated in mitmita which is a blend of chili peppers, cumin and cloves. Mitmita gives it that spicy touch but the effect of these spices were mitigated by the Ethiopian herbed butter generously peppered on top of the dish.
Footnote: The word KITFO comes from the Ethio-Semitic root k-t-f, meaning “to chop finely; mince. Not a fan of raw meat, I didn’t quite enjoy this dish as much as I loved the other beef items on the platter.
A sizzling hot dish of cubed beef sautéed in onion, jalapeno & garlic. This dish is usually served on a clay pot but at Gursha Ethiopian Restaurant it came seated on the ceramic platter as the other dishes, with no air, whatsoever but just a killer taste. If you love meat esp. beef, then there are little chances you will not love Shekela Tibs.
Lean beef cubes cooked in a mild sauce with onions, potato, carrots, tomato and turmeric.
Gomen Be Sega
A dish made out of diced pieces of beef, kale, garlic and berber. Berber like mitmita in as integral ingredient in Ethiopian cooking. It is made of dried red hot pepper, herbs, spices, dried onions, dried garlic and salt ingredients which makes it hot and spicy. Being an Indian and generally a lover of spicy food, this appealed to my spice buds.
Grilled beef peppered with freshly sautéed vegetables. If you love both veggies and meat then you’re in for a treat with this dish for it offers the best of both worlds.
The Veg Platter
A savoury blend of green beans, sautéed with carrots, garlic, and caramelized onions in spiced tomato sauce. It tasted fantastic and became our favourite dish on the veg platter. If you are a carrot or green bean lover, there’s no chance you’ll not love this dish.
A very vegan and healthy dish made of cabbage, potato, carrot and turmeric. Though the addition of turmeric gave it a bland yellowish colour, it was simply bursting with flavour. With enough taste to satisfy anyone, Tikel Gomen soon became one of our favourite dish. I would have personally loved it with cooked white rice.
Shiro is a utterly delectable chickpea powder-based dish slow-cooked with red berbere sauce and mixed with garlic and onions. It was thick, almost paste like and served as a perfect addition to the Injera.
A delicious (and beautifully colored) combination of split red lentils simmered in spicy berbere sauce. If you are a veggie then you are better off enjoying it with Injera but if you eat non vegetarian then try mixing misir along with the beef and you’ll see explosion of different flavours in your mouth.
When in an Ethiopian restaurant, eat as the Ethiopians do!
Finally we washed it all down with some delicious chocolate fondant and ice cream. If you want a sweet but healthy indulgence go for their Teff Brownies made out of the nutritious Teff powder.
Coffee Ceremony at Gursha
One of the most enjoyable aspects of visiting an Ethiopian restaurant is the opportunity to be part of a the coffee ceremony. We were a little off hours for it but you can enjoy yours, if you only call before visiting and find out if the event is happening. Gursha Ethiopian Restaurant promises to take you on take a tour of Ethiopia’s cultural heritage through the coffee ceremony.
Witness the traditional coffee brewing process that invokes the fine aroma of freshly roasted coffee, filling the air and treating all your senses. And if that doesn’t satisfy you enough, park yourself outdoors in the gorgeous beachfront setting, sip down freshly brewed Ethiopian dark coffee, watch the sun go down and blow away the cares of the day over soothing shisha.
Interesting fact: Did you know? The word ‘coffee’ derives its origin from Kaffa, a region in Ethiopia where coffee beans originated.
What Gursha offers?
- Authentic and traditional Ethiopian cuisine served in a chic ambiance with plush seating, artsy décor and Ethiopian design elements including paintings, jewellery, souvenirs and artefacts
- Great selection of Spirits, Wine, Cocktail, Mocktails, Beer, Champaign and other house beverages.
- Flavored Sheesha
- Live DJ with traditional Ethiopian and western mixes playing in the background and elevating the dining experience to another level. You can personalize the experience for you and your loved ones by requesting the DJ to play your favorite number.
What to order?
Food is the star attraction at Gursha Ethiopian Restaurant. Walk in any day and you can find giant platters with king-sized portions of some of the best Ethiopian food being served to guests. In fact the menu features what’s called YE GETOCH GURSHA – a kingly feast that includes a portion of every item on the menu incl. the appetizers. Gursha also serve a variety of combination platters including Vegetarian Platter, Meat Lovers Platter and Taste of Ethiopia Platter.
How much it costs?
The vegetarian platter is priced @ AED 90
The Non-vegetarian platter is priced @ AED 115
If you want to get a taste of both, go for the Taste of Ethiopia which is AED 140
If you want to feast like Sheikhs guest, simply order Ye Getoch Gursha. It can feed two at AED 275
How to eat?
Eating Ethiopian food is absolutely an amazing experience! First, to begin eating, tear off a bite sized piece of injera (the sourdough bread) with your right hand. Then use it to scoop and pick up a bite of your choice of whatever you have on your platter. As you begin to eat your dishes, you can begin to eat the foundation piece of injera at the bottom. The Injera is the best part of the meal, because it’s soaked up all the wonderful flavors of the dishes. No utensils are needed, you eat with your hands, while sharing a single platter of food with everyone you eat with. Feel free to scoop dip from couple of your favourite dishes at one go.
Ethiopian Dining Etiquette
Most traditional Ethiopian food is eaten with the hands; this is done by tearing off a piece of injera, using it to grab some food, and putting it directly in your mouth
- Traditional meals are eaten from a communal plate, but you should not reach all the way across to the other side to grab food; eat what is close to you.
- It is polite to eat with your right hand – the left is considered unclean and therefore you should avoid using it if you can.
- There will always be a way to wash your hands before and after the meal. Sometimes a waiter will bring a basin and pitcher to the table.
- When greeting people at a restaurant, often they will have already washed their hands, or they will already eating. In place of a handshake, they will offer you their wrist; lightly grasp their wrist but do not shake it. If your hands aren’t suitable for a handshake either, you can touch your wrist to their
- The gursha is a gesture when a person will put food into your mouth. It is a gesture of respect and it is courteous to accept it
Finally, our verdict!
For those seeking an authentic ethnic experience immersed in flavours and culture of Ethiopia, Gursha Ethiopian Restaurant, is undoubtedly the best bet in Dubai.
Overall Rating: 9
IF YOU’RE GOING…
Gursha Ethiopian Restaurant
Where: Unit No.01, Club Vista Mare, Palm Jumeirah – Dubai
Hours: Sunday to Thursday 12 Noon to 12 Midnight
Atmosphere: Dimly lit with artsy décor, wall paintings, artefacts. Catchy Ethiopian and English music playing in the background by a live DJ.
Parking: Ample parking space in front of the Club Vista Mare
Prices: Appetizers AED 30-40; Mains AED 80-120
Credit cards: All major credit cards accepted
Sound level: Moderate
Wheelchair access: Accessible
Beverage service: Good collection of wine, beer and house beverages. Traditional coffee service.
Service: Prompt, very friendly and hospitable.
Recommended: Doro Wat, Shekela Tibs, Shiro, Tibs Firfir, Miser
Reservations: 04 5542665
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/gurshadubai