Choma Grill – Restaurant Review
By Mistre Tekaligne, May 01, 2019
Located in Sarbet next to the Heineken HQ, Choma Grill is the newest venture by the Effoi Pizza brand. With its daring slogan “down to the bone”, Choma Grill is bringing contemporary twists to grill classics.
Entering through the gates, we were greeted by the voguish theme interior of the outdoor restaurant. The standard grill house wooden benches and tables were starkly contrasted by the brightly colored graffiti on the walls. Choma Grill takes pride in the fact that all furnishings are either built in-house or bought from a junkyard and refurbished, a true reflection of creativity that combines modern lifestyle with earthy wooden tones. A raised bed kitchen garden that framed the bottom of the walls held a variety of herbs ranging from every day cooking herbs like rosemary and oregano, to medicinal herbs such as Sage, Hibiscus, Damakese and Ariti. This grill restaurant is not only perfect to dig into a great barbecue, but also cozy enough for large gatherings with friends and family outings.
After finding a place to sit and getting comfortable, we started our dining experience with a round of drinks. A few of us ordered the house’s double filter Tella, while the rest who had yet to acquire taste for this bitter brew settled for its commercial counter-part— good old beer. The Tella was served in a beautiful glass pitcher and cups, continuing the restaurant’s theme of blending traditional values with modern presentation. The Tella was dark and robust. It tasted refreshingly cold and slightly bitter which, I was assured by the more seasoned drinkers, is the measure of a good Tella.
The menu at Choma offers a variety of grills, kebabs, barbecue and smoked meat with your choice of side dishes and sauces. Our mouths watering just from looking through the menu and resisting the urge to order every single item, we finally settled on ordering two of the meat combo dish – a combination of four main meats with three sides and three sauces of your choice, good to feed two or three people. While we eagerly waited for our food to be served, Rama Tesfaye, the manager, offered to give us a tour of the restaurant.
As Rama took us from one corner of the restaurant to the other, we could see the glints of excitement and pride in his eyes. He started by showing us the simple things that gave the restaurant a vibrant character— the “Junkyard treasures”, as he called them. These were random appliances like fridges, sinks or shelves that were bought from a junkyard in an area commonly known as “18 Likuanda”, then thoroughly cleaned, revamped and given a place. The rest of the restaurant was then designed keeping these junkyard treasures at the center of its theme, which seems to give the whole place vibrations of whispered history. Rama then walked us past the garden, stopping at each herb to give us a short description, feel the texture and get a whiff of their refreshing fragrance. Following that, he showed us their brick wall kitchen that housed their self-built main grill, smoker and barbecue and the cold-room, which is used to dry age their renowned rib-eye steak that is only available on special occasions or upon early order. The most exciting part of the tour for me however was the repair shop in the back of the restaurant. This was where all the newly bought or broken down appliances and toys from all other Effoi Pizza locations were brought to be maintained, repaired or refurbished.
By the time we got back to our table, our meal was being served communal dinning style, on two large wooden trays and comprised a full grilled chicken, beef ribs, kebabs and grilled tibs with hand-cut fries, roasted vegetables, beans & rice and Kachamburi (an East African tomato salad) for our side dishes, as well as awaze, kochkocha, tzatziki (a south European and Middle Eastern yoghurt based sauce), red chimichurri (an Argentinian and Uruguayan uncooked sauce for grilled meat) and barbecue sauce to complement our dish of choice. The savory aroma of the food was especially tempting; we didn’t even wait for the server to put down the trays before we started digging in.
The tender and well-seasoned ribs tasted finger-licking good when paired with the zesty kachamburi. The tibs was cooked to perfection and the kebab was sensational, but the star of the show was the grilled chicken, which was juicy with a smoky flavor and a hint of sweetness from the glaze. The flavor of rice & beans, the sweetness of the cornbread and the crispiness of the fries complemented every meat dish. What tied the whole meal together still were the sauces. The fiery kochkocha, the spicy awaze and the acidic chimichurri enhanced the fatty flavor of the meats, the sweet barbecue sauce and the cooling tzatziki balanced out the heat. By the time we were done with our plates, we indeed had devoured everything down to the bone.
Just when we thought we had enough, our gracious host brought over a sample of their Texas-style smoked brisket and a plate of their chicken popcorn with a side of fries – an item from their kids menu – as well as a bottle of Debrebirhan Areke for the table. The blackened brisket was hearty, smoky and flavorful. The bite sized chicken popcorn that was crispy breaded and simple to munch on is definitely suitable for kids.
Stuffed to the brim and taking sips of the fiery areke, what we thought was going to be a forty-five minute meal ended up being a five-hour extravaganza. However, for those of you who don’t have five hours to spare, the restaurant not only offers take-away options, but also does delivery for prime meats and chicken, upon request. If you are a fan of briskets, it’s available on Thursdays and Saturdays, but be warned: they only make a limited amount, order before it runs out.
Choma Grill has exceeded our expectation. From the ambience and impeccable service to the scrumptious food for a fair price, the restaurant had us counting the days until we were back there before we even left the place.