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Yeshi Buna, Brisbane: The Ethiopian Restaurant Where Combination Platters Are Everything

When you enter Brisbane restaurant Yeshi Buna, you are greeted with the smell of roasted coffee, frankincense and berbere, the fragrant Ethiopian-Eritrean chilli and spice blend. Marigold-coloured walls enclose a tight space, with utilitarian plastic cloths on the tables and an exuberant Ethio-jazz concert streaming from the television above the cash register. (Co-owner Workneh Engida says the concert lineup features Mulatu Astatke, who he has personally hosted on the musician’s tours of Australia.) It is immediately homely and inviting.

Yeshi Buna is run by husband and wife team Workneh and Yeshi Belihu. After running cafes in Ethiopia and Uganda, the couple migrated to Australia in 1999. In 2012 they opened Yeshi Buna in Moorooka, a suburb that is home to a growing number of Ethiopian, Eritrean and Sudanese restaurants and a large portion of Brisbane’s African diaspora. “Buna” means coffee in Amharic, and the restaurant gives reverence to Ethiopia’s coffee heritage with traditional coffee ceremonies on special occasions.

A woman in a white dress pours coffee from a black pot for a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony.
Yalemzerf Adam, a friend of the restaurant, performs a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony. Photograph: Dan Peled
Topview of a dish of green lentils on a plate with esh, a flaky flatbread.
Azifa, a green lentil dish spiced with chilli, ginger, lemon and mustard, and served with esh. Photograph: Dan Peled

But on every other day, there is Ethiopian food for lunch and dinner. Among the starters, the standouts include kategna, a dish of crispy injera (more on that later) rendered a deep amber by a coating of citrusy berbere-laced awaze sauce; and azifa, a green-lentil salad mashed with chilli, ginger, lemon and akick of mustard, with flaky, roti-like esh bread.

The vegan beyaynetu includes the must-try gomen – finely chopped kale (sometimes spinach) enlivened with ginger and a heavy wallop of garlic. The key wot (beef stew) is the highlight of the meat beyaynetu. It is aromatic, delicately sweet and pairs beautifully with the slightly sour flavour of the injera.

Elsewhere on the menu, the shiro is one to watch. The roasted and powdered chickpeas are cooked into an earthy, silky orange-coloured sauce of surprising depth, and heavily spiced with berbere. And if it’s available, order the sinig (jalapenos stuffed with onion and tomato salsa) for a welcome crunch and hit of chilli to accompany the mains.

Exterior of Yeshi Buna, an Ethiopiain restaurant with large glass windows and a white corrugated roof.
The tiny Yeshi Buna in Moorooka; larger groups should book ahead. Photograph: Dan Peled

Ethiopian cuisine has a large number of vegetarian and vegan dishes due to the country’s population of Orthodox Christians, who avoid meat on certain days. Although vegan items are clearly labelled, you should specify your dietary requirements as some dishes come topped with butter. (Likewise, if you require gluten-free options, phone ahead to order wheat-free injera.)

The restaurant is tiny; larger groups should book ahead. But it’s all part of the cosy appeal – coffee, frankincense and all.

Source: theguardian