There are quite a few Ethiopian restaurants around Greenwood and Danforth. Rendez-Vous was chosen as one of the more popular ones in the area for an authentic Ethiopian experience.
From the outside, the place was falling short of a memorable appearance. Taking a closer look, their tiny street patio was adorned with a custom-made black and yellow railing, spelling out the name of the restaurant in iron, painted over in yellow.
An orange sign with the black letters and a blue awning added to an already colourful look, making it go a touch beyond a measure of good taste, we thought. Furthermore, Rendez-Vous went as far as colouring the concrete slab by the entrance in orange and black, which also served as a sign spelling out the name - good idea for a ‘Welcome’ rug.
SWIRL & NOSE
We chose to sit in a more authentic part of the restaurant - towards the back. There was also considerably less light there, setting up for a comfortable evening mood. Again, bright orange dominated the walls, which also were decorated with photos depicting Ethiopian cultural scenes. Oddly enough, on the floor, there was a mosaic of the Italian boot, perhaps an artifact from the previous owners...
Several hay umbrellas suspended all around, geometric patterns on the tables, as well as a large drum-like tables, were called upon to conclude the authentic African look.
We asked for an array of dishes, which were selected by our waitress, as we were there for the first time and wanted a full flavour experience. In front of us landed a symphony of ingredients, filling our oversized sharing plate - something for everyone: legumes, veggies, meats, both spicy or not so much (although, hotter than not on average). All these were served on a round injera, a traditional porous crepe. Furthermore, a stack of more injeras was accompanying the main dish. These breads were meant to act as an impromptu utensil. We noticed that most of the meats on our plate were stew variants (both beef and lamb). There was also some legume mixes and even a salad. This plate was assembled in front of us: most of the cold ingredients came first, and everything else was brought out shortly and poured on top.
We would highly recommend the large plate for the uninitiated: you get to try a wide variety of interesting foods without committing to a large portion of something you might not enjoy. With the help of our hands, we got to experience not only the taste, but also the texture of what we were enjoying, keeping us connected through smell, taste, and touch - a very engaging experience.
Upbeat saxophone mix was filling the place and, despite the bright colours, everything was very paced and relaxing. A truly communal and tranquil experience for a meal ceremony with a twist.
PS: to cap our visit, we enjoyed a traditional coffee ceremony for six. The warned us it will take some time to make. Our host walked with a roast pan filled with coffee beans through the whole restaurant to get us going. Next, a bowl of popcorn arrived at our table, lightly buttered and hardly salted. With franinsence smoking on the side in a special clay pot, our waitress sat with us to pour fresh coffee in the tiny cups. The stimulating drink was a bit bitter and sour, but did deliver a much-needed jolt after a filling meal.