Most of you have probably already heard of Fresh Corner, the grocery store giant famous for its fresh produce. But I bet it comes as a surprise to learn that Fresh Corner has recently ventured into fine dining with Fresh Corner’s Kitchen. We headed out to their Bisrate Gabriel branch, looking to see if the cooking would turn out to be just as noteworthy as the produce.
As we made our way to our table, the first thing I noticed was how immaculate and economically used the relatively small area was. We sat down and were immediately greeted by our waiter for the day, Hayelom. His affable and intuitive nature was not limited to not just our first interaction, but continued throughout our meal, allowing us to feel very comfortable. Speaking of our meal, we had the option of either ordering from the menu or being treated to a set course. Of course, we had already set our sights to gourmet dining so we went with the latter. But it was comforting to know there was still an alternative for those in our audience who would rather opt out of a four-course meal.
Before our hors d’oeuvres arrived, we were treated to some fine wine, offered by Fresh Corner from Ezana brewery. We had three options to choose from- Q’ine, Saba, and Ge’ez. You could not find these anywhere else in Addis, and so my curiosity was reasonably piqued. Q’ine is their medium sweet red wine, Ge’ez is their dry red wine, and Saba is their white wine. We learned Q’ine was by far the most popular, so we went with that as our selection. As is customary, I took a whiff of the wine before my first sip, and all I can say was that it smelled divine. Its taste proved to be no less. It was truly above and beyond my current standards for local wine.
Our hors d’oeuvres then made their way to our table, and I immediately noted the presentation. Named Q’ine and Kushena, we were faced with a beef tart and a salmon tart.
Presented raw and cylindrically, draped in the French Espagnole sauce and white vinegar sauce, one topped with grated parmesan cheese and the other with dirkosh and shrimp, both placed on the big plates so characteristic of gourmet. They looked exquisite. I forked a piece of the beef tart and took a bite. It was chewy yet delicate at its core. I had never eaten raw beef outside the circle of Ethiopian cuisine- and I never really thought I would either- but I was impressed with the dish. The cheese was wonderfully rich, and it all worked well in combination with the French dressings. The salmon was a similar tale. The meat itself had a subtle, somewhat smoky taste to it, despite it also being raw. The shrimp and dirkosh gave way to an interesting dynamic in texture, and I can attest that I thoroughly enjoyed it. I preferred this over the beef tart.
“The shrimp and dirkosh gave way to an interesting dynamic in texture and I can attest that I thoroughly enjoyed it. I actually preferred this over the beef tart.“
As soon as our plates were cleared, the appetizers followed: ravioli. This classic pasta dish was made in bite-sized portions and stuffed with aged beef and ricotta (the classic Italian cheese made from the leftover whey in the making of other cheeses) and coated in a thick layer of bechamel sauce, finally topped with some blue cheese. As a huge sucker for pasta, my mouth was watering on sight. I took my first bite and… it took all my willpower to maintain the etiquette expected of me and refrain from downing the remaining five pieces at once. The aged beef maximized the unique taste of umami and the semi-sour ricotta compounded with it wonderfully. The sauce was also finger-licking good. Needless to say, I was more than satisfied.
We were then served our entrée, one T-bone Rose Beefsteak, and one Paprika Salmon. The steak was aged, same as the rest of the beef in this course, and cooked medium-well. It was dressed with leek and broccoli puree and sided with an assortment of cooked veggies. The steak was tender and juicy, primarily because of the changes caused in its aging. The flavor had peaked here and was more enhanced by the puree. It was a must-try. The Salmon was pan-seared and smoked with paprika, giving its aroma a distinct and powerful call. It was layered on top of spinach and peas, solidifying its state as a healthy, low carb, dish. The salmon was delicate in texture and the smoked paprika added a layer of intrigue to the flavor.
Finally, we were treated to dessert- a lemon tart and poached pear. Deep red in appearance, the poached pear was sitting on a thin layer of sponge cake and swam in a caramelized form of their Q’ine wine. I had never seen anything like it. I took a bite and confirmed I had never tasted anything like it, either. It was sweet but not saccharine and I couldn’t get enough. From the soft sponge cake to the delicate pear, it was a dish made to perfection. I then followed it up with the lemon tart. This was presented in a comparatively less dramatic fashion. With a smear of thick chocolate beneath the tart and a trail of lemon slices atop it, it looked like the perfect end to a thoroughly wholesome meal. The first bite revealed the tart’s slightly crunchy nature as well as its wonderfully seamless play between sweet and sour. The chocolate added a new dimension of interest as well. I was very happy.
Fresh Corner’s goal has long been to provide us with a fresh variety of produce, and now, with their Kitchen, they have decided to provide us with fresh, house-made meals as well. And although dining here requires somewhat deep pockets, it is all too worth it for those of you who can afford to have a curious palate.