This is embarrassing.
Not the eating with your hands part — although that has me feeling a bit odd, especially since there are spoons and forks around — it’s that I’ve almost wiped my hands on the bread.
We are at Gursha, the Ethiopian eatery on the Palm, watching the gentle swish of the water nipping at the beach, which is so deserted it feels like a private compound. The Burj Al Arab looms in the background, gently lit by the moon. Other than the occasional sound of footsteps, the place is ours — which is just as well, for the sofas outside are meant for lounging.
There are other eateries around of course, but as yet, at 8pm, they are unpopulated.
After a refreshing hot towel, when the appetisers are brought in, that’s when my ignorance shows. Fortunately, I’ve only just reached out when I’m told that this is special bread so we can all pretend that the confusion never happened.
The thin flat roll is made of sourdough. Called injera, the bread is gluten-free and spongy, and made with a tiny grain called teff. Both the sampler and meat lovers’ platter we order is complemented by this cereal.
The starter sampler is a delicately plated spread with buticha, a chickpea dip; anebabero, injera with spiced butter and zesty spread; and azifa, vinegar-soaked lentils with garlic herb cream. The lentils are beautiful. Made more so by the eating by hand. There’s something about the tactile sensation of scooping up food and feeling its texture before chomping down on it that is oddly satisfying.
And there’s the flavour: of exotic spices with a hit of sourness. The portions a small, but filling and thus satisfying.
And then, mostly full we decide on the meat lovers’ platter. It comes in a huge plate — the size of an extra large pizza.
The platter is covered in injera and with dollops of curry: gursha kitfo, beef tartare in Ethiopian spice and butter; gomen kitfo, beef with kale; doro, chicken curry with a boiled egg; siga, a spicy beef curry; and tibs, grilled, sauteed beef.
The tartare is a raw dish, but they offer to cook it up a treat. However, we are in authentic mode — fingers dipped in food, check; raw beef, check; loud slurps, check.
The spread requires a good working of the jaws and a disposition that’s keen on meaty flavours.
We can see the romantic appeal of the place. The menu points out that gursha refers to feeding someone else with one’s hands, as a form of endearment. And the earthy vibe of its interiors, which have small mats hanging from the ceilings, are beautiful, even if you are watching from the outside, where you can indulge in shisha.
The meal ends in ice cream and a brownie (also gluten free), and fortunately we get spoons this time around. No more cunning traps for the easily embarrassed. Just a delicious burst of chocolate.
Where: Gursha, Palm Jumeirah
Credit card: Yes
Average cost: Dh250 for two people
Opening hours: 12pm-12am