Today I headed to the newly-opened Modern restaurant, housed in the former location of Rinkside at 354 Portage Avenue. While you’ll recognize much of the interior from its previous incarnation, that’s where the similarities end.
Modern specializes in East African cuisine, featuring the stews, bread and spices of Ethiopia. It’s one of my favourite types of food full of comforting dishes and tongue tantalizing heat. This is the kind of food that takes hours and hours to make, in order to develop its deep, complex flavours. The most common spice used in Ethiopian cuisine is one called berbere–a blend of chili, garlic, ginger, cloves, allspice, coriander and more.
I can’t think of anything more perfect to warm the soul on a cold January day.
My lunch companion and I decided to opt for the “buffet”, in this case, a large platter topped with a variety of things so we could try it all. (And it was a ridiculous steal at just $15 for the whole thing.)
The large platter came in the traditional way, blanketed by a piece of injera–the flatbread of this cuisine with a taste similar to sourdough. Heaping piles of lentils, meat, veggies and sauce were then doled out on top of the bread, where the juices soaked down into it. A few more injera were served on the side and these became our eating utensils as we tore off little bits and used them to scoop up the food. (They’ll bring you a fork if you ask, but c’mon, live a little.)
My favourite was the tender beef stew. Its rich red colour lending a clue to the intensity of flavour waiting. It boasted a delicious combination of spicy, sour and sweet. Alongside were red and yellow lentils, each with their own distinct earthiness. I also loved the collard greens that came steamed and mixed with house made cottage cheese, making it rich and creamy. One unique offering I hadn’t seen before was a shredded pile of injera mixed with spices that heightened the delicious natural sourness of the bread.
There is a variety of other dishes on the menu including lamb tibs (boneless cubed lamb sauteed in spices) and chicken stew (a spicy dish made with berbere and clarified butter), as well as some other vegetarian options including chickpeas and split pea curry.
Needless to say, we left stuff and satisfied. A great option for lunch, the atmosphere is relaxed, casual and distinctly modern. (Ha, see what I did there?)