As you are well aware, I am always on the lookout for exciting new places to eat and drink. When, one day, I passed a banner announcing that a place called Djiboutii was opening soon, this immediately caught my attention, as my father had lived in Djibouti for a couple of years during the ‘70s. I mentioned it to him and he immediately started dreaming about the Ethiopian-style food he assumed it would serve.
Djiboutii, tucked down a little side alley off Wan Chai’s Landale Street, however, has nothing to do with Djibouti the country; from what I understand, the owner simply liked the sound of the name. When it then came to buying the website, the additional ‘i’ meant a significant difference in the price!
Rather than being the East African restaurant we had initially expected, Djiboutii is in fact a bar that specialises in tea-infused cocktails and Middle Eastern snacks. There are hints of Africa on the brightly coloured wild animal wallpaper at the back of the room, but otherwise, it’s just a very cool-looking cocktail bar. The look on my father’s face when the realisation set in was quite amusing, but he embraced the situation, ordered a DjBluTea (one of the signature cocktails made with lavender infused vodka, cranberry tea, sloe berries liqueur, dark cacao liquer, blueberries and lemon juice) and even started bobbing his head along to the music.
Whilst we decided what to order, we nibbled on a bowl of spiced hand-cut fries with homemade aioli. These were nicely seasoned and addictively crispy, although they did start to get soggy the further we delved into the bowl.
Inspired by the head chef’s native Indian cuisine, the Djboutii Naan comes stuffed with mashed potatoes, masala spice and coriander. Though this may seem like an unusual dish, we were all completely amazed by it and could very easily have ordered a second round. The texture of the fluffy mashed potato beneath the crispy, doughy naan was pretty special, whilst the fresh herbs and spices were divine.
Wanting to make sure we tasted all of the freshly made dips, we tried the Djiboutii Platter, which consisted of hummus, babaganoush, a tomato-based dip and grilled haloumi with homemade tomato jam, served with freshly made za’atar flatbread. Although the dips could have had a touch more seasoning, all were deliciously fresh and moreish – again, we’d have happily ordered a second helping and devoured it all.
One of the first things you’ll see as you enter Djiboutii is its rotisserie oven full of golden chooks slowly spinning. Marinated in lemon, garlic and spices, the roast chicken was beautifully succulent, although I again felt that it could have had a touch more seasoning.
The mixed grill offered an array of lamb, beef, chicken and fish skewers, served with freshly made tzatziki and more of that delicious za’atar flatbread with which to soak it all up. Each of these was delicious in its own right, but I was particularly impressed by the beef meatball, which was satisfyingly infused with cinnamon.
To accompany our grill, we tasted a selection of salads: quinoa salad with peas and herbs, cucumber and mango salad, and roasted vegetable salad, all of which were wonderfully light and refreshing.
At this stage we had tried, between five of us, practically everything on the menu, so the one thing left to try was the pizzita. Another thing Djiboutii prides itself on is its huge stone oven, used to bake stacks and stacks of its signature flatbreads, naans, and of course pizzitas. The only option on the menu is topped with chicken breast, pickled chilli, red onion, feta and mozzarella. Chicken wouldn’t be my go-to topping for a pizza, but I enjoyed it nevertheless and appreciated the thin, yet somehow still doughy, base.
Prices are pretty reasonable, with most dishes around the $100 mark. Cocktails are a bit more pricey, starting at $110, but there’s also a small selection of beer and wine by the glass. Djiboutii isn’t necessarily the place you’d go for a quiet civilised dinner; it’s somewhere you’d go with a group of friends to enjoy a fun vibe, great drinks and tasty snacks. Unfortunately it is only licensed until 11pm, so start your night early and party until they kick you out!
Shop 1, G/F
2 Landale Street
Tel: +852 9449 0777