Dinknesh Lucy's mild chicken stew and injera. Photo: Ken Irwin
In many parts of the world, sharing food is simply the done thing, not a new dining concept that needs to be explained by a waiter. So it is in Ethiopia, where food is scooped from communal dishes with injera, a fermented flatbread.
Sometimes stews are simply spooned over injera, which acts as both plate and utensil. Many Melbourne diners aren't cool with that, so at Dinknesh Lucy, food is spooned from communal dishes onto individual plates then mopped up with torn pieces of injera, no further cutlery necessary.
Mulu Tiruneh's welcoming five-year-old restaurant (next to Lentil as Anything, and with parking out the back) is named after an early hominid skeleton discovered in Ethiopia in 1974 and estimated to have lived more than 3 million years ago.
Dinknesh Lucy's cheap and cheerful ethos carries from its decor to dishes. Photo: Ken Irwin
Dinknesh translates as ''wonderful'' or ''amazing''. There's nothing fancy about the venue, with its plastic tablecloths and paper napkins, but the decor is jaunty and Mulu is a friendly host, happy to offer recommendations of the dishes she makes with care and enthusiasm. A tiny stage is set for coffee ceremonies (book ahead), and there's Ethiopian dancing on busy nights. We made do with the TV in the corner, which showed exhausting looking, slightly disturbing, weapon dances.
Everything I ate was tasty. A mild chicken stew featured small drumsticks in a clear broth. The meat was tender and juicy, the soup dotted with silverbeet. A gentle, sustaining dish, this is the African version of chicken soup for the soul.
More robust was the bozena shiro, a casserole of cubed lamb in a gravy thickened with spiced chickpea flour. A vegetarian combination, served in a compartmentalised steel platter, featured braised beetroot, spiced chickpea-flour paste, cabbage fried with onions and ginger, and spiced red lentils.
Mulu makes injera fresh for every meal, which isn't as common as you would hope in Melbourne's African restaurants.
She rolls her circular bread like washcloths on a plane and delivers them to tables with every meal. Injera are slightly sour, very absorbent (all the better for sopping up with) and alarmingly filling.
Contributing to the filling factor is the clarified butter that thickens many Ethiopian dishes. Add to this the very low prices and you'll discover it's hard to spend more than $15 a person on food here.
So Dinknesh Lucy is cheap and cheerful, ensuring a dinknesh meal indeed.
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- (03) 9687 8644
- Cuisine - African
- Prices - Entrees, $5; mains, $13-$17; desserts, $4
- Features - Licensed, BYO, Cheap and cheerful
- Cards accepted - AMEX, Mastercard, Visa, EFTPOS
- Opening Hours - Daily, 11am-11pm