Jambo Jambo is a small restaurant nestled in St Leonards, on the Sydney’s North Shore. I have never had African food before so when a Groupon voucher cropped up I thought it was the best time to try it out. After a tiny misunderstanding regarding the booking my friend and I were seated and ready to start this three course meal! The restaurant is pretty small with only a few tables but it is filled with photos, paintings, drums and masks which give it a very eclectic and somewhat homey feel.
First to come out was the entree plate to share. I am pretty sure it was the owner who was serving us, and he explained what everything was. There was chapati, a flat, pan fried bread similar to roti that we were meant to dip in a honey sauce.
Next we tried something that resembled the Chinese “sang choy bow”. Wrapped inside lettuce is some raw beef (well I think it was beef…) which had a little bit of spices mixed through it. The meat didn’t really taste like much but the texture was very smooth and a little powdery because of the spice mix. The texture resembles the German “mett” which is raw pork mince with onion and spices though it. However, unlike mett, this definitely had a very mild taste. Was a very interesting dish nevertheless.
Finally, we reached the samosas filled with lentils, onion and some chilli. The pastry was really nice and flaky but the filling lacked a little punch. Like the raw meat roll, these too were a little under seasoned and with not much flavour. It might be that the entree’s are meant to be a little bland to let the mains shine?
We got to choose three curries which were served with a special type for sourdough flat bread called “injera”. We actually received four curries as the owner gave us an extra one to try. Apparently he does that a lot (according to reviews)! The bread was very spongy and aerated with a distinct fermented, sourdough taste. I would liken it to a super spongy pancake! The owner showed us how to eat without cutlery which we tried. He told us that we took very small amounts and that we needed way more bread to pick up the curries! We were too dainty. It’s very easy to rip and is used to pick up the curries, soaks up the sauce and is extremely filling. The picture only has 2 rolled up pieces of injera, but we had already eaten the other two and were starting to get full. The owner also told us that the bread and all the food there is gluten free as they use a special grain found in Ethiopia. I have to double check the details of this though, as I didn’t quite catch all the information at the time. If you are coeliac then double check but I have a feeling that their cuisine is not wheat based which is awesome!
We had the doro alicha which is a mild curried chicken maryland in a onion curry served with a boiled egg. The onion is stewed and becomes very sweet which I liked however, it was very rich so I didn’t eat all the sauce. It’s super yellow too, probably spiced with some tumeric to get that lovely colour. We also ordered the kitffo which is the minced beef fried with spices and cottage cheese. We ordered this purely because it had cheese in it but it wasn’t cheesy at all. You got hints of cheese but it never took away from the beef. This curry was a little salty but was my favourite. Our final choice was the kik wot which is yellow split peas in an Ethiopian style dhal. My friend really liked this but for me it was bland. It did however, compliment the salty beef. I think the free dish was the key wot but I am not 100% sure, I just remembered he said it was spicy. Oh and it was… The lamb was super tender in a quite spicy sauce. I really liked it but I found it pretty spicy so I could only have a bit.
We only could finish half of what was there and we really really tried. We still had ice cream to come! The mango ice cream was my favourite. The other flavour is sesame which isn’t really my cup of tea because it’s a nutty taste. It was a nice way to finish a relatively dense and heavy meal. The owner also came out and offered us some fresh roasted coffee, we turned it down because I don’t drink coffee and my friend can’t sleep if she has coffee at night. The roasting generated an amazing scent that filled the whole restaurant.
I really liked this kind of food, the curries are milder both chilli wise and bold flavour wise compared to Indian curries. It is a nice change to the very strong flavours of Indian cuisine. I’d suggest you go very very hungry as the injera is extremely filling. I really love the injera and wish I could eat more of it! I’d definitely come back for the delicious food and for the warm hospitality of the staff there. The whole experience was really like they were hosting us in their own home.
***Originally published Nov 2014 on my previous blog***