Rendez-Vous Restaurant Bar & Café, the aromas, ambiance and welcoming hosts will transport you to Ethiopia and back, if only for a shot time. My first taste of Ethiopian food had been a long time coming; stepping in to the cozy, red-lit restaurant on the Danforth provided a platform for perfection, or utter failure. Thankfully, my expectations were blown away, as were my taste buds.
Accompanied by two reasonably adept eaters and one other friend that was as clueless as I was with regards to this particular ethnic fare, we were graciously assisted in our ordering by the owner, Banchi Kinde. After nearly 11-years in business, Banchi has a refined technique when it comes to introducing Toronto locals to her native dishes.
Cooked in the authentic style common to the centrally located capital city of Addis Ababa, our multicolored platter of meat, beans, veggies and salads was a wonderfully mysterious sight. As the steam rose up and the tantalizing scents engulfed our nostrils, Banchi explained the different dishes she had equipped us with.
Doro Wat ($13.00) is a spicy, chicken based sauce, cooked with butter, onion, chili, garlic and spices served with a boiled egg. It's velvety smooth and divinely rich with a smoky chili flair that melds perfectly with the sweet butter. Cha Cha ($14.00) is tender char broiled beef seasoned with spices, onion, red and green peppers and served sizzling, on a hot skillet. The final meat dish was Rendez-Vous Lega Tibs ($13.00), flavour packed morsels of lamb sautéed to perfection with garlic onion and peppers.
We also were treated to the Rendez-Vous Vegetarian Combo ($13.00) which featured a sampling of every fully vegan dish on their menu from lentils, split peas, chickpeas, collard greens, cabbage, beets and fresh vinegary salad, to name a few.
The most important thing to understand when eating Eritrean cuisine is that utensils are entirely unwelcome. Injera, a spongy sourdough flatbread made from fermented teff flour is used to pinch and mop up all of the saucy, meaty, pureed goodness. A carpeting of injera is also laid down on the bottom of the communal platter soaking up the flavour of whatever it's topped with. Injera is complementary here, unlike many other Ethiopian restaurants.
Another important practice and a must-try on your Ethiopian adventure is the coffee ceremony ($15.00). Order before your meal as it takes at least 30 minutes to prepare. They first bring out a pan of roasting Organic Ethiopian Sidamo Coffee Beans and invite you to waft in the smoky aroma as it fills the air.
After the addition of water and 20 minutes on the boil in a clay pot, Banchi sits table-side and pours out the somewhat thick, strong and incredibly delicious coffee for everyone.
As the smoke rises from a chalice shaped container of Frankincense, meant to provide energy, we lean back and sip from our small decorative cups of coffee and snack on popcorn; our bellies are as full as the experience we've just had.
Photos by Abigail Ainsworth