Sunday, April 7, 2013

Hamdi Restaurant – Minneapolis, MN

It was a guy’s night out with some of my favorite people. Dinner and watching some wrestling on TV (don’t ask). Killsbury Doughboy suggested we try something new to all of us and not our usual fare – Somali cuisine. Absolutely. Why not? What is there to lose? And it was within walking distance, right on Lake Street. Perfect.

We headed to the restaurant and grabbed a seat in the pretty spacious and sparsely decorated restaurant. We still honestly had no idea what to expect. Here’s what we knew – A-Wow claimed Somalia had some sort of Italian influence so there might be spaghetti. I’m not joking – this was all we knew and for that matter, we didn’t believe a word A-Wow was saying after that statement. When the server brought us menus, we were relieved to see that almost everything on it included a photo. Whew, much less of a gamble when you can see approximately what you’re getting. Not a ton of description on it, but I’m guessing most of the regulars in this restaurant – and there were a number of people eating or drinking coffee inside – didn’t need descriptions.

While the menu isn’t expansive, it has very recognizable items. Chicken, beef, goat, fish, and served with sides of chapatti (sort of a tortilla/bread), rice, soor (a cornmeal/grits mash), or spaghetti – damn, A-Wow wasn’t making that up. There are various meat stews, grilled meat and grilled fish. Actually, the photos of the food look pretty appetizing. I asked about a dish called KK and through some rough translation and quick search of the internet with my phone, discovered it’s sort of a stir fry stew with chapatti strips cooked in with the vegetables. I tried to order the KK, but I think it got lost in the translation (since we had a lot of questions about the various foods and they were out of some things). I think I ended up with the Stewed Chicken and a plate of rice – we still didn’t order spaghetti.

We were brought a pretty simple iceberg lettuce salad in a bowl that we all managed to tip over numerous times – it wasn’t the most stable dish in the world. It ended up making us all laugh though. It came with a small cup of Italian dressing and was garnished with a lemon. Nothing fancy. Pretty boring salad, but we’re clearly not vegetarians, nor judgers of salad in any way.

The generous entrees arrived pretty quickly and to our delight, looked really tasty. There were strips of the chapatti cooked in with the chicken and vegetables (chick peas, green peppers, onions, and corn). If you picture a stir-fry but a little dryer, you’ll get the picture. The flavor was really much better than I even expected. You could taste all of the ingredients and it was seasoned really heavily, but not in a bad way – just the traditional seasonings of Somalia, I’m assuming.

The plate of rice that accompanied the entrée was also generous and had a bit of a seasoning garnish on top of it. Better than average rice, dish and since it was an accompaniment, it was fantastic when eaten with the Chicken Stew. Very nicely done.

I had a bite of Killsbury Doughboy’s fish dish (also served with rice) and it was light and flaky and mild. Nothing fishy nor offensive about this dish at all.

We will warn you that they bring out a small dish of green liquid with the entrees. We aren’t sure what this is made out of, but it’s basically liquid fire. I am REALLY glad I didn’t pour this all over my dish or it would have been inedible. It’s one of the spiciest sauces I’ve ever seen on a table, and that’s simply dipping a finger into it for a taste. Blazing hot, so use it sparingly!

Overall, the place is absolutely worth going back to. In fact, I’m quite looking forward to bring some other people here. Sure there were some translation/language problems, but our group rolls pretty easily with that and don’t get bent out of shape. Sure there was a msising item or two, but honestly, we all left full and pleased with our decision to go here. Looking forward to going back and trying the KK and maybe some mango juice!

Not enough items to do a top 5, but we were all pretty happy with our dishes. Well done, Hamdi!

Hamdi Restaurant
818 E. Lake Street
Minneapolis, MN 55407

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