We were alerted about Horn of Africa by reader Gaile at Fidgety Budgie, who reviewed Horn of Africa on her website, here. It sounded like an interesting place to check out. I don’t have that much experience with African food, and so it’s always an adventure to try. Regular readers will know that I’m on a diet to lose weight because of some minor health problems, so our ability to go out to eat has been curtailed quite a bit, and we always pick places we want to review when we do go out.
The Horn of Africa has a little something for everyone on their menu. Besides the variety of African chicken, lamb, seafood, and vegetarian dishes, they also serve the standard Mediterranean favorites like kebabs, gyros, and falafel. Their falafel plate is the vegan choice. Gaile mentioned in her review that, on her visit, there were worryingly few customers at prime dinner time, but we didn’t find that to be the case on our visit. The place is just a block or two north of NE Alberta on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, and is easy to find. The decor is a little dull and the ambiance is strictly no-frills family dining. Our one biggest complaint of the night was the speed (or rather, slowness) with which everything happened. On the plus side, almost everything on the menu is gluten-free, and our waitress was very friendly and helpful.
For an appetizer, we got Bajiya. These are described as “Seasoned patties of ground garbanzos and split peas, lightly fried.” Of course, our first choice would have been the Sambusas (which are basically Samosas by another name), but we were pleased to find that the Bajiya was a lot like a Samosa. This item was tasty, hot, and had obviously been prepared right then, so our expectations were raised. If you order these, however, keep in mind that you only get one patty per appetizer. They are only $1.00 but still, if you are expecting a more appetizer sized appetizer, you might order extra.
The next thing I got excited about is that they have gluten-free flat bread. It comes out in rolls like this. The bread is spongy like something made with rice flour, but is very flavorful and reminded me of the teff bread we made a long time ago. It has a yeasty flavor that is very reminiscent of light rye bread. It’s the perfect thing for sopping up some sauce to go with your next bite. Our waitress mentioned that we got lucky that they had it when we visited, and that it’s the sort of item where they can make sure to have some available if you call them the day before.
For our entrees, we ordered the Keluna with Wild Salmon and the Marakha Lukku. The Marakha Lukku is described as “Chicken breast stewed in house-made Beri-Beri Sauce with garlic and onions.” Beri Beri is a sauce made with a lot of spices like cardamom, peppercorns, fenugreek, ginger, and the like, combined with wine, oil, and hot chillies. I ordered mine “medium spicy” and felt like it was pretty mild. The chicken was well done, but I felt like the dish ended up being a little one-dimensional. Like it needed some veggies, or maybe some yogurt on the side.
The Keluna is their fish dish and comes with whatever happens to be in season. It is described as “Seafood in season marinated in Zanzibar-style herbs and spices, pan-seared and stewed with fresh vegetables.” This dish was a little bit like a curry but had its own character. We both really liked it and felt that it was the superior dish of the two. The salmon was cooked perfectly and the veggies were excellent.
All in all the food was good, and it seemed to me like it had been prepared when we ordered it. I have to mention as well that their rice was really awesome. As I said, the waitress was friendly and informative, but it seemed like it took a long time for our food to come out. Checking other reviews on the Internet, it seems like we’re not the only ones who have had this problem. We thought that the food was good, but not spectacular. I would summarize our feeling about the restaurant as “satisfied and curious to try more, but not blown away.”
Gluten-Free Safety Rating: Gluten-free Friendly but Ask Questions!
Times we have visited: 1 (So your experience may vary.)
Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Same.
Horn of Africa
5237 NE MLK Blvd / 503.331.9844
We want to know: Do you have a favorite gluten-free friendly African restaurant in town? Got a teff bread recipe for making flat bread? Let us know in the comments!