Rotterdam – Restaurant Review

By Mistre Tekaligne, September 01, 2019

On the ground floor of Hyatt Regency Addis Ababa, tucked away behind the lobby, is a gem waiting to be discovered. The Kitchen restaurant and bar is a fine dining establishment serving Levantine cuisine with a touch of Ethiopia in it.

Walking into The Kitchen restaurant and bar, we were greeted by the hostess and shown our options for seating.  The interior incorporated traditional Ethiopian motifs in creatively unconventional decorative methods.  There are large hand-woven baskets filled with local red peppers, raw turmeric and chili peppers casually placed in corners.  Items such as the “taba” (a traditional clay pot used for serving “kitfo”) and “mitad shekla” (a clay stove used for making “injera”) with beautiful patterns carved into them, are displayed on the walls.  On the right side of the restaurant is the open kitchen with inviting fresh ingredients displayed on the counter top.  On the left is the hot beverage station and the door leading to the bar.  The Kitchen bar, despite being outdoors, has a warm and cozy atmosphere.  The sprawling views of the nearby Meskel Square and soft music from the Metro Lounge located right under, make it a perfect place for a few drinks and then some.  The bar serves a selection of cocktails and mocktails starting from 6:00 PM.

After settling down at our table and being handed our menus, we started going over it.  The first page gives an introduction to the creative process behind the ingredients used and the selection of foods available.  The next page starts off with the bold headline “Chef Hani’s Delights” and goes on to list fifteen different kinds of vegetarian starters.  The page also contains “Hot Mezze Bites”, “Soup” and “Sandwich” sections.  Upon the recommendation of our host, we ordered three starters from the first section: chick-pea hummus, calamari with a side of mild tomato dip and fattouch salad.  Before the starters were served, we were presented with complimentary teff bread with avocado and yogurt dip.  The starters were then served with a beautiful presentation.  The semi-creamy hummus tasted nutty, with a slightly pronounced garlic flavor, and went very well with the teff bread.  The calamari was absolutely divine, tender to the bite and slightly sweet.  The fattouch salad had just the right amount zesty acidity and the crisp pita gave it a nice crunch.

The main course section had four sections: “Flat Sourdough Bread” with three options to go with the bread, a “Homemade Noodles” section, a “Stove and 

Grill” section and a selection of five side dishes.  For the main course, we ordered the chicken shawarma, teff noodles with tomato sauce, Chef Hani’s mixed grill, za’at roasted chicken, pan-roasted fish of the day and the aubergine fettah.

Waiting for the food to arrive, we struck up a conversation with Mr. Kerem Suner, the hotel’s Food and Beverage Manager, to learn a bit more about the chef and the theme behind the restaurant itself.  Chef Hani, the man behind the masterpieces, is a Syrian chef referred to as “Uncle” by the staff due to how invested and caring he is toward his customers and staff.  Despite the restaurant serving Middle Eastern cuisine, they are adamant about using local ingredients, going as far as traveling from farm to farm with the chef to look for the best produce and build up lasting relationships with the farmers growing them.  The insistence of using as much local produce, whether as raw material or inspiration, permeates to the design elements as well as the uniforms of the staff.  Middle Eastern food is well-known for its use of olive oil; however, in keeping with the concept of using local ingredients, the restaurant has opted instead to use cold pressed organic avocado oil as an alternative to olive oil, which has received a wildly positive reception.

The main courses arrived and we were all eager to devour every one of the dishes.  The presentation of each dish matched the exceptional meals being presented.  The chicken shawarma, served with a side of cabbage salad, was toothsome with a hint of garlic sauce.  The teff noodles were served with tomato and prawn sauce.  The sauce was a fusion of flavors, with the teff noodles providing a stimulating canvas.  It was by far my favorite dish of the night.  Chef Hani’s mixed grill had beef medallion, chicken shish kebab, lamb kofte, and tomato and parsley salad.  The meats were tender and juicy and the tomato salad was a welcome palette cleanser between every bite.  The za’at roasted chicken, which was served with scourged onions and pomegranate molasses, was savory and thoroughly scrumptious.  The pan-roasted fish of the day, which was Nile perch with a smear of khadra sauce, was lean, flaky and brackish.  The aubergine fettah was roasted aubergine, with pilaf rice, crisp pita and yoghurt and mint.

Having relished every bite of each dish, we then ordered lemonade spritz as a digestif which came in two flavors: Orange and Thyme or Ginger and Spice, which were utterly refreshing and served their purpose, making room for dessert.  From a selection of seven desserts on the menu, we opted to have double chocolate tart, Beirut cheesecake and a selection of homemade ice creams.  The double chocolate tart was served with a generous serving of chocolate Chantilly and crushed hazelnuts sprinkled on the tart, and was devilishly good.  The Beirut cheesecake, which was served with fresh strawberries, was velvety with a creamy taste to it.  With its contemporary-cultural setting, exceptional and rare choices of food and royal treatment, The Kitchen is a flawlessly executed venture of Hyatt Regency Addis Ababa.  Be it for a romantic dinner or a get together over a few cocktails watching the sun set over the city, it is a place to be.

Photo: Courtesy of Hyatt Regency