Iceland sure has come a long way since its first Thai restaurant opened for business a couple of decades ago. One can now enjoy lavish meals from most corners of the world within Reykjavík, and this is great cause for celebration.
It can only get better from here on. However, as one of our readers remarked in a letter earlier this year, a restaurant that specialises in the unique and excellent culinaria of Ethiopia has been sorely missed (those that have had the chance to enjoy Ethiopian cuisine will agree).
Fret no more, however! Iceland finally has an Ethiopian restaurant! And it’s… in Flúðir?
Yes, it’s true. Iceland’s first ever Ethiopian restaurant, Minilik, is located in the village of Flúðir in the south of Iceland (if you went on a ‘Golden Circle’ tour you will have been fairly close by), which up until now has mostly been known for growing every single button mushroom that’s consumed in Iceland.
A name worthy of an emperor
Minilik is named in honour of Emperor Minilik (1844–1913), who served as Ethiopia’s emperor from 1889 until his death and is regarded a national hero—he is credited with, among other things, fending off Italy’s attempts to colonise the country (Ethiopia is the only country in Africa that has never been colonised).
The menu is simple yet satisfying, listing seven staple dishes (including Kitfo, Siga Wott and Minchetabish), a couple of smaller ones (the Sambusa was great), as well as your standard dessert fare. The food is served in a traditional Ethiopian manner (you eat with your hand, and it comes with pancakes) and you can even finish off your meal with ‘Ceremonial Ethiopian Coffee, The Traditional Way,’ which entails a meticulously re-enacted fifteen minute long coffee roasting/making ceremony that’s heavy on aroma and surpassed only by the actual coffee you get at the end.
Located in the old Flúðir tourist centre, Minilik is a small and relatively charming restaurant that manages to spice up the ‘summer cottage’ style interior and exterior with Ethiopian posters and flare.
We should note that the pricing policy is very moderate.
A welcome addition
After we enjoyed a fine meal at Minilik (and then enjoyed snickering at our fellow Ring Road travellers that were making do with unsavoury sjoppa burgers at that very moment) we talked to owner and proprietor Azeb Khasai, who founded the restaurant along with her husband, Árni Magnús Hannesson, her sister Lemlem Khasai and her husband, Yirga Meiconnen.
Azeb is a charming woman in her late thirties. We converse in Icelandic, and we learn that she is originally from Addis Ababa, but has lived in Iceland for over three years. She says she learned her cooking skills from her mother, and that she met her husband (and restaurant co-owner) Árni Magnús while working as an Au Pair in Reykjavík a few years back.
She tells us she enjoys running the restaurant and that they have been very busy since opening for business this June. “We import the spices and such from Ethiopia, but otherwise we use mostly use local ingredients,” she replies when we ask if getting all the proper stuff for the Ethiopian dishes is hard on such a remote island. She laughs a lot during our conversation, and confirms our suspicion that Icelanders will often have trouble understanding that Ethiopian food is meant to be consumed without the use of forks or spoons. They’ll get it, eventually.
Minilik will be open every day except Monday over the summer, but will likely only operate on weekends this winter. For more info call 846 9798.
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