Metro Station: Maubert-Mutualité (Line 10)
Type of cuisine: Ethiopian
Days & hours of operation: Open every day from noon until 2:00 a.m. except Monday at lunchtime
Credit card: Visa, MasterCard
According to the Web site of this Ethiopian restaurant, the word Godjo means “a farmer’s house, the most humble of all abodes.” It was here that we dined last Friday night on a huge platter laden with generous portions of food, eating it in the most humble manner…with our fingers.
Although we had made a reservation for 8:00 p.m., we had to wait on the sidewalk for about fifteen minutes for a table, so popular is this establishment.
Once seated, I sipped the house cocktail, made of rum and the juices of mango and papaya, while studying the menu. The nectarous beverage was served without ice and topped with a slice of strawberry. Because it was served at room temperature, it was not very refreshing, but was, nonetheless, sweet and pleasing.
I ordered Ye Feseg, portions of four traditional Ethiopian dishes all served together. The serving consisted of ground beef, sliced beef, chicken, and stewed string beans. My partner chose to order à la carte and requested Ater Azifa (purée of chickpeas) as a starter and Key Wot (spicy chicken).
We anticipated that our separate orders would each be served on a separate plate, but at the same time wondered how all of them would fit on the small dining table at which we sat. The answer came when the waitress returned with a large metal platter set in a colorful basket. The platter contained all of the courses that we had ordered, except for one: the purée of chickpeas had been replaced by purée of lentils, apparently due to the waitress’ inattentiveness when taking the order. We did not ask her to replace the dish because we did not realize the error at first. When we tasted the purée, we liked it and chose not to have it replaced.
Along with the food, the waitress placed a plate containing round sheets of injera (the traditional, spongy flatbread of Ethiopia) on our table. To eat the food, one must tear off a portion of the flatbread and use it to pick up the stewed meat and vegetables. We learned very quickly how to eat with our fingers! The appetizing food was quite spicy. I ordered an Ethiopian beer, called St. George Beer, to cool the palate. My partner ordered hot spiced tea, and found that it was heavily perfumed with clove. This spice does not always agree with her, so she requested a carafe of water to accompany her meal.
The portions of food were so generous that I could not finish the meal. As well as the four dishes mentioned above, the serving included two hardboiled eggs, lettuce and tomato salad, and white cheese (similar to cottage cheese). I left behind one of the hardboiled eggs and a half-breast of chicken spiced with cumin, even though I found the meat tender and delicious. My partner left a portion of spicy chicken breast for the same reason—the amount of food was too much for her as well.
Dessert, of course, I could not pass up. I requested a bowl of ice cream and received two scoops, banana and coconut. I especially liked the later—the rich ice cream contained delightfully chewy, shredded, sweet coconut. My partner opted for an after-dinner drink instead, and selected the digestif Godjo aux épices. This consisted of rum, sugar, lemon, ginger, and cinnamon, topped with a mint leaf. She declared that it was quite flavorful and not overly strong.
Although the service was friendly, it was difficult to catch the servers’ attention because they were rushing around serving tables in the main dining room, the downstairs dining area, and on the sidewalk. Tables are close together and there is not much room to walk in the center aisle. Our meals were slow to emerge from the kitchen, so we were obliged to wait quite a while for the food to be served. These vexations will try the patience of diners who are accustomed to prompt service in a spacious dining area.
The restaurant is decorated with African motifs, including knick-knacks on display shelves, paintings, and masks. It is a noisy place, but the sounds are those of happy customers enjoying their meals and each other’s company! Apart from the intense dinnertime conversation, jazzy music playing over the sound system contributed to the clamor.
The bill for two persons, including one apéritif cocktail, one spice tea, one bottle of Ethiopian beer, one fixed-price menu, one starter, one main course, one dessert, and one after-dinner drink, came to 70.50€.
Diners in search of an exotic dining experience will find it at Godjo!
Tom Reeves has been a confirmed Francophile since he first traveled to France in 1975. A native of northern California, he moved to France permanently in 1992. Reeves’ love of French language and culture inspired him to create Discover Paris!, a travel planning service that caters to Americans interested in cultural travel to Paris. His book, Paris Insights – An Anthology, has been called “the kind of insider’s view of the French capital…that first or even second time visitors pine for.” He publishes a monthly newsletter entitled Paris Insights about history, culture, and contemporary life in the City of Light, and posts daily information about the French capital on Facebook.