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The way of the Dodo

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There’s a new kid on the Quinpool block, in the former Addis Ababa digs. Dodo’s Cafe and BBQ has brought Mediterranean food, from Greece and the Middle East, to the former home of African cuisine.

The interior has been redone in vibrant blues and warm yellows, evoking the sunny skies and deep blue sea of the Mediterranean region. Casual tables and chairs, a glass display case filled with salads and desserts, and a pile of plastic covered menus sitting next to the cash register add to the informal feel. Peer over the cash counter, you can watch your food being prepared, and the smell of charbroiled meat holds a wealth of promise of things to come.

Along with the Mediterranean offerings there is also (somewhat curiously) an assortment of familiar deep-fried and grill items like chicken fingers and hamburgers. Those, you can get anywhere. We’re here for the house specialties, starting with a bowl of soup that our server brings over. It’s compliments of the chef, and we notice a bowl of soup goes to every diner. An unusual touch in such an eatery, and some patrons look a little puzzled, disconcerted even. I inhale a fragrant smell that’s complex, layers of spice one atop the other, an irresistible combination that tastes every bit as good as it smells. The soup, lentils and rice in an aromatic broth, could be a meal in itself. Licking our bowls clean, we don’t wait long before our next round comes.

Hummus and tzatziki ($4.95 each), staples of this cuisine, are served in bowls garnished with pickled vegetables and warm pita triangles for dipping. Both of these versions are delicious—smooth, thin spreads that beg to be eaten by the spoonful. A bold hand added the garlic to the hummus; coupled with a shot of lemon juice it makes the chickpeas sing.

Our server is a little hesitant when asked about some of the ingredients and plates, but explains that she’s new and doesn’t really know the menu yet. She quickly goes to the kitchen for answers, and her friendly demeanour more than makes up for her rookie status. She’s enthusiastic about the food, too, looking genuinely happy that we’re enjoying our meal.

For main courses, we’re having a mixed Greek platter ($11.95) and the BBQ kefta kebab ($9.95). The Greek plate includes a chicken skewer on a large mound of rice, Greek salad, spanakopita (feta and spinach in phyllo pastry) and dolmades (rolled grape leaves). The chicken is lovely, seasoned well and not tough from its time spent on the grill. I like that the Greek salad is made properly, without lettuce, but wonder why the carrots are included—no matter, the dressing is light and zesty, the vegetables crisp, it’s all good. The kefta kebab, two large skewers on rice with a cabbage slaw, is very good as well. Kefta are spiced meatballs, usually ground beef with bread and seasonings. In this case, the mixture has been flattened to slide on the skewers and allow for more even cooking on the grill.

For dessert there are large squares of baklava. These are done in the Middle Eastern, not Greek style, with rosewater and pistachios replacing walnuts and honey. This baklava is fantastic, the lightest I’ve had in a long time. Layers of delicate phyllo pastry flake apart to uncover the sweet pistachio filling. Full as we are, it’s easy to make room for this.

With any luck, Dodo’s won’t suffer the same fate as the bird with which it shares a name, for this is a great little cafe that adds to the culinary patchwork of the Quinpool area.

Dodo’s Cafeand BBQ 6184 Quinpool Road492-3636 Mon-Sat 11am-10pmSun closed

Find more of liz feltham’s culinary patchwork online at: www.foodcritic.ca

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