Pero Restaurant adds a bit of contemporary cool alongside the comfortable vibe that's on offer at its spot on Bloor near Ossington while traditional Ethiopian cuisine makes up the menu.
It was just starting to get cold out when I visited Pero a few weeks ago with some friends. We had a hunger in our bellies and a chill up our spines and figured some hearty, stick-to-your-ribs food was well in order. Surrounded by woven bamboo stations and a mélange of East African pottery and carvings, we sipped aromatic clove tea as we waited for one of our mates to arrive.
The wiry, metal chair backs were cold and rigid and we wished to ourselves that we could stretch out amidst the comfortable looking pillows in the VIP room, but sadly it was already reserved. Nevertheless, as the evening proceeded we were comforted by the cuisine and well cared for by the staff.
Though I was hoping to sample a few of the more adventurous options on the menu, such as the sautéed tongue with caramelized onions and green peppers in a fresh tomato sauce ($15), or the Tripa: ground beef, liver, tripe, jalapenos and onions sautéed with their "special sauce" ($14), we sprung for the Pero's special so we could satisfy everyone's cravings.
Like many Ethiopian dishes, the Pero Platter (1-$19, 2-$32, 3-$45, 4-$60) is meant for sharing. A combination of beef kitfo, a distinctive dish made from rare beef marinated in mitmita, chicken tibs with a beautifully smokey, grilled flavour, and sections of stewed lentils, chickpeas and collard greens. The different dishes are separated by rolls of soft injera (the traditional Ethiopian flatbread made from teff that serves as one's primary utensil as well as a spongy bed that soaks up all the fragrant sauces.
We also sprung for an order of a favourite of mine, Lamb Cha Cha ($16). Served steaming on a sizzling skillet, the boneless bits of succulent lamb come spooned overtop of the vinegary salad in the middle of the platter, making for a perfect mix.
If you've never had the privilege of experiencing a traditional Ethiopian meal, then taking part in a coffee ceremony is a must! Considered to be a mark of friendship or respect, this isn't like your grab-and-go Starbucks. A process that's not to be rushed — the coffee ceremony takes place in a number of stages ‐ from the roasting of the beans and the wafting of the fumes over the participants, a gentle smoke drift of frankincense at the table, a hefty bowl of freshly popped popcorn and of course, the near-artistic pouring of the thick, strong coffee at one's table. This is the only way to end an altogether excellent meal.
Before we leave the restaurant, we chat with Pero about the stunning avant-garde paintings he has on display by David Vasquez and get a sneak-peek at the basement bar that by now is likely turning out jazz tunes with relative frequency. As if the food wasn't a worthy draw on its own, I'll be back to check out some of the downstairs performances sometime soon.