Five Loaves – Restaurant Review
By Ephratha Kibru, June 01, 2019
Five Loaves, to all those who’ve already heard of it, is one of the best restaurants in our wonderful city. It is ranked 1st on TripAdvisor among the best places for breakfast in town since its opening five years ago. An annual survey conducted by Capital Newspaper also placed Five Loaves in 1st place in their restaurant section last year.
All this buzz presents a high standard and expectations that are quite hard to live up to. As a skeptic, I had wondered if it was all just hype for quite a while. Surely it couldn’t be that good. So instead of twiddling my thumbs any further, I set to find out.
Five Loaves is located in an interesting looking brick house around the Adwa bridge area on the way to Megenagna. As an old, small, two-floored darling of a place, it’s hard to miss because nothing alongside it is nearly as visually interesting. I walked in and the delicious scent of baked goodies wafts up my nostrils, immediately making my mouth water. The line of pastries decked on the left side of the restaurant caught my eye then and I couldn’t help but ogle at the fine display. It all looked too good! I made my way upstairs, above the café, passing a number of artsy photographs, to the bar/bistro and miraculously found a seat. Five Loaves was notoriously packed and today was no exception.
We could hear faint jazz and blues music playing in the background, giving the whole place a cozy atmosphere. At the corner of the room sat a nice little piano. And although there was no one playing her today, she very much added to the aesthetic of the place.
I had a look at the menu and was slightly overwhelmed. From Mexican to Southeast Asian to French, there was just so much to choose from. So we let the chef surprise us instead.
The Greek Salad and Chicken Satay Salad were first up. The presentation of both was impeccable and my appetite was up and running even before I took a bite. The Greek Salad was nice and salty, with feta cheese quite unlike any I’d had before. It was nice and spongy with the signature tanginess of good feta cheese. It greatly added to the character of the fresh veggie colossal. The Chicken Satay Salad was a dish borrowing from Southeast Asian, namely Indonesian cuisine, and consisted of skewered chicken grilled and marinated with coconut milk on a salad bed. The chicken walked the fine line between soft and chewy, resulting in the perfect texture to accompany the greens it came with. It was delicious.
No sooner had we cleared our plates, the main dishes began to arrive. The Grilled Salmon was first up. Norwegian salmon seared and grilled with expertise was accompanied by well-seasoned spinach and well-crafted mashed potatoes that rounded up this timeless dish nicely. It was a smoky meal, with just the right variations in texture and taste that neither bored nor alienated my taste buds. I loved it.
Next came the Cajun Fish. A delicately baked and spiced Tilapia fish with mashed potatoes and grilled veggies for a side. It was cooked in the classic Louisiana style. As soon as I took a bite of the tilapia, it wholly deconstructed, crumbling beautifully in my mouth. The Cajun spiced the fish just right. There are few in Addis who use Cajun and among those who do, most usually either add too much, overwhelming the diner or add too little because they fear its seasoning potential. But here, it was just right. The mashed potatoes and veggies were just as impeccable as the last dish. All complemented one another beautifully.
I was on a roll now and tried the Fillet Steak. It was well grilled to a medium rare – not so well done as to play it safe yet not so pink as to put off diners who don’t really enjoy rare meat. It was very soft, tender, and digestible. The wonderfully crafted white wine garlic and cream sauce was a fantastic addition to the meal, dressing up the steak nicely.
As someone who just absolutely loves breakfast food (at any time of day, really), I also tried their Eggs Benedict with Smoked Salmon. I wasn’t in the least bit disappointed. The eggs, delicately poached weren’t too runny and played quite well with the cheese. The English muffin it was layered on was adequately crunchy and the titular salmon was impeccable – impeccably crafted and fantastically smoky. It was an absolute delight.
Finally, I had the Chicken Parmesan – by far my favorite. A classic Italian dish of layered mozzarella and parmesan cheese that coated my eager tongue, all topped on soft and tender chicken cooked and served with tomato sauce. The side pasta, spiced with basil among others, tasted amazing. I was definitely coming back for more.
Before I found myself stuffed beyond return, I had a little chat with the owners, Mimi and Theo, about my new favorite place. “The name comes from the bible where Jesus feeds the 5,000 with only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they said, “We wanted to feed 5,000. And we did.”
Theo is responsible for all the cooking and the grilling that goes around the place while Mimi is the genius behind the desserts. “We’re relatives. We’ve known each other a long time and every time we met, we found ourselves talking about food.”
Both Theo and Mimi were out of the country for a good deal of their lives, receiving most of their training there. Theo had been working at restaurants since he was just 14, serving at any post he could get. He even worked for Design Cuisine, a top caterer company in Washington DC. “I paid for my college education through cooking. It was always a passion of mine,” he says. “And even though I had learned photography in school, I abandoned it all for food.”
Mimi on the other hand went to pastry school in the 80s and a decade ago decided to brush up on her skills in Italy coming back 6 months later. With all the experience she had built up by then, she decided to bake out of home 7 years ago. “I took orders, delivered to some cafés, and then some. But it predictably became too much to handle from home,” she says. “I had to work during the day and could only bake at night so as soon as the business got too popular, I came to the conclusion that working from home wouldn’t cut it. That’s when we decided to open a restaurant.
“It all comes from the heart. The food we make, the service we provide, everything. We weren’t business oriented from the start and, to be honest, we still aren’t. We just let everything run its course and I think it worked out because of it. Five Loaves is like family and people can see that. Almost all of our customers are regulars and very few of our staff have left us. It’s all love here, and that’s what’s important,” they finish. I couldn’t have agreed more.
All in all, Five Loaves was one of the best dining experiences I have had. With a wonderful atmosphere, live music, impeccably kept bathrooms, attentive staff, and reasonably priced, big portioned meals for every mood, occasion, or time of day, your satisfaction is assured here.