Rendez-Vous is an Ethiopian restaurant that acts as a communal place of gathering and the spot to get your tibs fix at the same time.
Located just a five minute walk from Greenwood station, the restaurant sits on a small stretch of land, which, when it opened 17 years ago, looked far more barren than it does now.
Rendez-Vous owner Banchi Kinde says it was the establishing of her restaurant which first opened the door for more Ethiopian businesses to call this area adjunct to Greektown – known informally as Little Ethiopia – home.
Inside, the place has all the accoutrements of your typical Ethiopian restaurant but more colourful and probably louder. The first thing you’ll notice entering the space is the crowd of locals gathered around the fully stocked bar watching live sports on TV.
Bathed in a red glow, the restaurant’s back has seating that comes decked out with straw-thatched umbrella. It looks like a sweet sweet spot to host a party, and Banchi says birthday gatherings here come with free celebratory champagne for guests.
The meal comes in a beautifully colourful bread basket called a Mesob, with unlimited sides of injera from Kullubi, a wholesaler that provides most Ethiopian restaurants in the city with their housemade teff flour bread.
It's more than enough for two people: our vegetarian platter meal ($13) and meat combo ($19.99) all come atop a bottom layer of injera, which everyone knows is the best part of the meal after its absorbed by the plate's juices.
Ethiopian meals are utensil free. Use your hand and a piece of injera to scoop up the veggies that dot the tray like chickpea puree, beets, split lentil and spinach. Some will have a kick but all are seasoned with garlic and ginger for a delicious vegan meal.
The meat combo, which shares the platter, comes with your choice of three meats. We opt for two types of lamb including the awaze tibs, which have a kick, and the nechi tibs, plus the popular kitfo, a big heap of lean beef tartar mixed with mitmita spice mix and herbed butter.
As if that wasn't enough food, there's also an extra portion of doro wat ($13) that arrives in a side bowl.
The chicken stew comes in a red pepper sauce and is a saucy accompaniment to the injera.After dinner, we're treated to the common practice of a post-meal coffee ceremony that's my favourite part of dining Ethiopian, where organic coffee beans imported from Addis Ababa are roasted in a pan directly at your table in a thrilling and aromatic presentation.
It's an explosion of aromas that's enjoyed by everybody in the restaurant. You'll be encouraged to use your hand and sweep the delicious fumes of roasted coffee beans into your nose for the full effect.
The beans are then brought back to the kitchen t be ground before it's served in a coffee pot made of clay. The set is accompanied by crystalline pieces of myrrh, which are burned to add yet another dimension of aroma to the meal.
Served with a giant tray of fresh, lightly buttered and salted popcorn which beats the movie theatre stuff by miles, it's the perfect way to end an immensely wholesome and satisfying meal.