Neighbourhood: West End
Address: 570 Sargent Ave
Phone: (204) 774-6997
You might remember a Harman’s that offered deli sandwiches at a lunch counter in the back of a now-defunct drug store on Portage Ave. You can still get a hefty corned beef on rye at a new Harman’s, but this year-old Ethiopian restaurant, named to commemorate the owner’s former workplace, is a world away from that lunch counter.
Spicy entrees here arrive with three little bowls of condiments: berberé, a ruddy, cayenne-heavy powder with a slow burn; a keen green chili paste that hits right away; and crumbly cheese curds that cuts spicy bite.
You won’t get cutlery, but ask for it if you eschew the Ethiopian norm of using torn-off pieces of injera bread to scoop up the stewy entrees.
What really sets Harman’s apart is its surprising breakfast offer. Where else can you get the kick of quanta firfir at 9 am? Ordering that searing saucy mix of Ethiopian beef jerky and shredded injera garners an appropriate spice warning from the waitress.
And though the scrambled eggs mix of inqulal firfir also gives a spicy start the day, Ethiopian breakfast tends to be relatively mild, with choices for people needing a slower start. The nuttiness of the fava bean stew called foule mixes nicely with the daub of sour cream on top. Four other scrambled egg dishes, cooked fluffy and moist, will please diners with a range of palate sensitivities.
From the lunch and dinner menu, mildly-spiced combination plates give a vibrant introduction to Ethiopian food. Two items in the four-item vegetarian combo stood out: a creamy split-pea stew called kik alicha and red lentils in a thick sauce of berberé, garlic and onions called misir.
In the meat combo, sega wat, a rich lamb stew with berberé and ginger, comes with two other dishes: alecha wat, which is coarsely-ground beef in turmeric sauce, and the cardamomflavoured beef stew, minchet abesh.
Harman’s serves drip coffee, but wait until you finish eating before enjoying the ceremony that produces the real stuff. On a dais set up for the task, the server roasts, grinds and brews beans while you wait, honouring Ethiopia’s history as a source of fine coffee beans. The rich, heavy brew has a firm effect, urging you to stay seated for just a while longer.
Harman’s Cafe is open Mon-Sat 9 am-3 pm and 4:30 pm-9 pm.