REVIEW: Ensira Ethiopian Restaurant & Tusker Kenyan Beer
Join me on a journey to East Africa, but you don’t need your passport. It’s actually on 17th in the heart of Calgary.
By Shira Kogut on Feb. 28, 2017
I enjoy nothing more than trying new things and eating with my hands, so I went with my husband, brother and sister-in-law to Ensira an Ethiopian Restaurant that offered both these options. From the outside, the restaurant is not much to look at, but upon entering you are warmly welcomed by a wonderful wait staff excited to tell you about their food and culture and surrounded by beautiful Ethiopian artwork and pottery (Ensira is the clay jug used to carry water). After a perusal of the menu one drink caught my eye, a Kenyan Beer called Tusker. Leaping at the opportunity, I ordered a Tusker and the rest of my table followed suit.
The beer was clean, crisp and much like the food; it was simple and delicious. The mouthfeel was light although I did sense a hint of smokiness. The beer is one of East Africa’s most popular beers and has been brewed there since 1922. Tusker’s motto “Together Forever” was a perfect pair with this restaurant as Ensira also means “Let’s Work Together” in Amharic (the Ethiopian language). Both invoke the warmth and strength of community, enhanced by the sharing of a good meal together. In the African, Middle Eastern and Indian cultures meals are not only shared by sitting together, but everyone uses their hands and bread (in this case Injera (a sour Ethiopian bread), in the Middle East it is pita or another larger style bread called lafa and Indians use naan) to take food from a communal plate rather than separate plates.
I enjoyed my beer thoroughly as we waited for our food, but unfortunately I felt that the pairing of the spicy dishes and the tartness of the Injera were not a great match for the beer. Not wanting to waste a good beer, I finished it before polishing off my meal down to the last tasty bit of Injera. I do have to say that my dishes were vegetarian, so think lentils, chickpeas and vegetables like beets with spices while everyone else had the meat dishes which included lamb, beef and chicken. They continued to enjoy their beers throughout the meal which leads me to believe that Tusker is most likely better when paired with meats rather than vegetarian dishes.
Finally no meal is complete without coffee. While we love and are used to strong coffee from our years in the Middle East what differentiated this coffee from the Middle Eastern coffee ceremony is that it is served with smoking incense which adds another wonderful layer to the senses. You can actually see the wafting smoke from the incense in the picture.
So Tusker, yay or nay? A definite yay! It is a treat for any beer lover to try something totally different from somewhere else and while I truly believe in the local movement and would’ve loved to be trying this beer in Kenya, I still believe that the experience suited the “local” philosophy. The authentic taste of East African drink and cuisine paired with the restaurant staff’s spirit of Ethiopian hospitality and finally the warmth and happiness of a meal shared with family.
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