Menu changes continent for Mondays

23:44, Oct 14 2009
DIFFERENT DINING: Dawit Demissie with his mesobs, or Ethiopian serving tables, in the Brooklyn restaurant.

A Thai restaurant owned by a Burmese woman is going Ethiopian.

Well, at least one night a week.

Dawit Demissie, a refugee from Ethiopia, takes over the Brooklyn restaurant every Monday night, serving his traditional cuisine.

The 31-year-old arrived in New Zealand in 2002 and hopes to open his own restaurant. Mr Demissie, who works as a taxi driver and studies English, has teamed with mentor Annie Coates who runs the Golden Lotus.

"She's very special," he said. "I don't have words to describe her . . . She's like my mum."

So on Mondays, the Thai restaurant features Ethiopian cuisine and decor.


Mr Demissie designed the menu, buys the ingredients and prepares the food and has family and friends helping out waiting tables.

"I'm very happy to show my traditional food. I'm not looking for the money. It's about introducing people to my food."

He described the food as healthy and spicy. "It's not fast food, it's prepared over the day."

After two weeks, it had been a hit. "People are asking me, 'Why just one night? We want more than one night.' So we will see how it goes."

Mr Demissie met Mrs Coates through ChangeMakers Refugee Forum, where she is also a cross-cultural worker.

Mrs Coates, who moved to Wellington from Burma in the early 1980s with her Kiwi husband, said she was giving Mr Demissie a chance so one day he could open his own restaurant. "I'm just paving the path for him . . . I like to help refugees establish and achieve something."

The restaurant was normally closed on Mondays so, when he told of wanting to open his own ethnic restaurant Mrs Coates thought it was a perfect opportunity for him to learn the trade.

The Dominion Post