124 Street has quickly become one of my favourite spots to dine – with some amazing restaurants lining the popular strip.
The newest Ethiopian restaurant to open on 124 Street is no exception.
This week I joined some of my lovely work friends for lunch at the new Walia Ethnic Ethiopian Restaurant (located at 10630 124 Street).
Walia has only been open for two months, and my friend Alyssa (who is obsessed with Ethiopian food!) was actually the one to spot it + suggest it as a lunch spot.
I have only ever had Ethiopian food one other time – at Abyssinia Ethiopian Restaurant on 95 Street – and really enjoyed it.
I was hoping to have a similar experience at Walia and sure enough – it was fantastic!
Walia is a clean, cute, and small space.
It used to be the Scottish Imports store before undergoing an Ethiopian make-over.
There’s a mix of bright colours inside Walia – bright greens and reds, plus wicker chairs and sort of like a tiki hut kind of feel above some of the booths/tables.
Walia is named after the Walia Ibex, an endangered species / members of the goat family. The Walia Ibex is also known as the Abyssinian Ibex, native to / only found in the northern mountains of Ethiopia (that information brought to you partially by the friendly owner of Walia, but also Wikipedia).
Walia’s owner is also its sole chef. He’s a super friendly man who used to work as chef at the old Habesha Ethiopian Restaurant on 118th Avenue, which is now permanently closed.
Alyssa – being the Ethiopian food lover she is – was thrilled to hear Walia’s chef was the same as Habesha as it had been her favourite Ethiopian restaurant until it shut down.
The menu at Walia (or most Ethiopian restaurants) consists of selections of various, spicy meats and vegetables. We asked the owner to pick what he’d like our group to try and he recommended a combination of Ethiopian vegetables, lamb and beef.
The platter came out in a traditional Ethiopian ‘mesob’ – a beautiful, colourful round wicker basket with a removable lid that reveals an equally beautiful, colourful round tray (called gebeta) topped with copious amounts of Ethiopian dishes including lamb tibbs, minced and ground beef kitfo, along with the vegetable combination which included red lentils, yellow split, collard green cabbage peas, shro wot vegetable stew, beets and purple cabbage, on top of a bed of injera – a spongey, Ethiopian sourdough flatbread.
We also got a hot pot featuring a spicy, beef stew.
I think the thing I love most about Ethiopian cuisine (other than the bright colours and wonderful flavours), is that it’s really quite a communal, sharing, family-style experience.
We were given the mesob with our giant platter, and some napkins. Beyond that – you’re encouraged to use your hands and just dig right in! (So Ethiopian food is definitely not for people who don’t like double dipping). Our group – clearly – had no issues with reaching in and grabbing a little bit of everything!
Not only does the spongey injera flatbread line the bottom of the platter, but you also get additional injera to help wrap the different meat and vegetables.
As we let the owner order for us, I’m not actually 100% sure the exact dishes/names featured in our gebata platter – I just know I loved pretty much everything.
If we refer to the above photo, my favourites were the beets, the purple cabbage, collard greens, and the middle and bottom lamb cuts (especially the bottom lamb cuts), plus the stew beef (brown, on either side of the platter). I loved scooping up some meat with the injera, including the green jalepenos, and a mix of vegetables for a delicious bite.
It was messy and delicious.
Similar to my experience at Abyssinia, I stopped eating with my injera half-way through and opted to pick at the food separately with my hands (and eventually started using the fork that came with the pot of beef stew). I just find the injera really fills you up and I wanted more of the actual meat and vegetable filling! That’s my preference – all the other ladies scooped with the injera to the very end.
Price-wise, most of the dishes at Walia are in the $15-$20 range. The vegetable combination was $14.99 and all of the lamb tibbs they offer (cooked in garlic, tomato, onions and spicy butter, or cooked in a spicy, hot pepper tomato and spicy butter, or cooked with just onions and green pepper, etc.) were $16.99, and their beef kitfo dishes (ground beef mixed with various spicies) ranged from $15.99 to $19.99.
We just ended up splitting the bill evenly between the 5 of us and it ended up being (including tip) $22 a person, which I think is awesome.
We were the only ones there for lunch on a Monday but despite that, the food did take awhile to come out (close to 40 minutes, then we were rushing to eat quickly to make it back to work at a reasonable time. I’d say the food was well worth the wait though!)
We also all ordered water as our drinks, not realizing the water comes in bottles (I generally don’t like to pay for water so that was a slight boo lol).
Overall though, the group consensus was that Walia was fantastic. The food looked, smelled, and tasted great. The owner/chef/server (three in one!) was so friendly and made great recommendations. Plus it’s always great to support lovely, small, family-owned businesses.
Although lunch is still quiet, the owner tells us that Friday, Saturday and Sunday dinners get quite packed – which is great to hear.
I’m guessing lunches will pick up (they’ve only been open 2 months!) because the great food (and prices) really speaks for itself – they just have don’t really have any Internet presence so far so it’s just a matter of people noticing they exist.
(Alyssa and I actually submitted their Facebook check-in location and Zomato listing for them, so we could tag them in our social posts after the meal!)
So have you been to Walia? (Have you had Ethiopian food before in general?) Let me know what you think!
P.S. If you’re interested in learning more about Ethiopian food, check out this great blog!
Also, there was so much food the five of us couldn’t finish the whole platter so a few of us divided up the food to take home as leftovers. Ethiopian food makes for great leftovers!!