383 Elgin Street North
In her opinion:
Going to dinner at Moderno feels to me just like going home. We have been going to this restaurant since it was first opened and use to be called Cafe Moderno. Before it had the sleek polished look that it has today. One thing that has remained consistent is the food. And this is good food. Portuguese food at it's finest. This is not Chiado's type of Portuguese food but rather homey, delicious food just like your mom makes if she's an exceptional cook! Which mine is!
We were suppose to meet a couple of friends for dinner but somehow our wires must have crossed and they didn't show up! But that was okay because we still managed to have an awesome dinner. I started by ordering my favourite Portuguese drink, a Castello. Castello is merely sparkling water much like Perrier or San Pellagrino but I like it more then the French or Italian version. Our very efficient waitress also brought over delicious Portuguese "Papo Secos" with butter or olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping.
For my appetizer, I ordered one of my favourite soups in any type of cuisine - Caldo Verde. Caldo Verde literally translates to green broth. It is a potato based soup with Portuguese chourico sausage, onion, garlic, olive oil and finely chopped kale or collard greens. I've had many versions of this soup both in Canada, the USA and Portugal and Moderno's take on this Portuguese classic is done to perfection. I would say that Moderno's Caldo Verde is superb. It is my favourite Caldo Verde from all the Caldo Verdes I a have ever eaten!
The Moderno Caldo Verde is creamy. I think that's why I like their version of Caldo Verde so much. The collards are nice and thin chopped and the chourico adds the right amount of smokey flavour. This soup is excellent. It is simply perfection.
The dinner menu at Moderno has a lot to pick from but my usual picks are either the "Bife a Casa" or the "Fillet of Fish". Tonight I picked the Fillet of Fish or what I like to call Portuguese wedding fish!
Moderno's version of Portuguese wedding fish is a lightly battered fish fillet served with a yellow rice and house salad (again similar to the salad served at Portuguese weddings with the oil and vinegar dressing). My fish was light and airy. It was perfectly seasoned. The rice was nicely done...not mushy and nicely flavoured. The salad was very refreshing and delicious. A perfect main course.
I love that we have one excellent Portuguese restaurant in Cambridge. There have been many attempts at Portuguese restaurants in this city but unfortunately they were not up to par with what Portuguese cuisine should be and were eventually taken out of their misery. Moderno is a very good example of what homey, modern and delicious Portuguese food should be. I like this place! I like it a lot.
In his opinion:
Moderno is a refreshing sight in a very dull and disappearing Portuguese cuisine scene in the Waterloo Region. In a city where Portuguese and their descendants constitute a big part of the population, it is appalling to find out of the scarceness of good Portuguese restaurants in Cambridge.
Moderno (Portuguese for modern) is exactly that. Moderno's style is a modern take on traditional Portuguese cuisine. Its décor tries as hard as it can to dissociate itself from a "traditional" Portuguese ambience. In the many incarnations that this restaurant has had, the consistency of good food and a welcoming environment are the standard throughout.
After we ordered our drinks, papo secos, the Portuguese bread rolls were brought to the table along with butter and olive oil and balsamic to serve as dips for the bread. This practice is believed to have started in countries like Spain, Italy and Portugal but throughout my travels to all these countries, I found no evidence that this is common practice in any of them, although seen sporadically in some restaurants. Some research on-line also backs this theory. It is actually more prominent in North American restaurants that serve those cuisines but nevertheless, is it an excellent idea and I personally love it.
After a brief explanation about the daily specials from the well informed waitress, we went on to browse the dinner menu. It is a well balanced menu with selections of beef, chicken, pork and heavy on seafood choices, carrying most of the "staple" dishes expected from Portuguese cuisine. I somewhat expectantly ordered the "Bife a Casa", a well loved dish throughout Portugal and that has many interpretations depending on the region of the country you order it in. The one consistency found in this dish is that it is usually served in a clay pot.
At Moderno, it is a tender strip loin steak, roughly 8 to 10 oz, pan seared and served in a creamy garlic sauce. The steak also comes topped with a sunny side up fried egg (ovo a cavalo), and freshly sliced, somewhat crispy potatoes, piled up around the clay pot.
The king jewel of this dish is surely the creamy garlic sauce that manages to not overpower the steak, compliments the potatoes greatly and serves as an excellent dipping sauce for the Portuguese bread (papo secos). Some hot peppers and black olives are also thrown in to the mix, completing the combination of flavours that complement the dish.
I have tried many dishes in my many visits to this restaurant throughout the years but it is the "Bife a casa" that I crave time and time again.
I failed to have in this occasion the appetizer "Flaming Chourico", which I usually have and highly recommend. It is a modern take on the "Chourico a Bombeiro" dish, which consists of sliced or partially slit Portuguese Chourico, drowsed in Brandy and served still in flames, for an amazing effect.
The Good: Flavourful food, inviting ambience and a great touch to have the owner often on premises to greet and engage the customers.
The Bad: Sometimes private parties take over the restaurant and makes it impossible for regular dining.
The Verdict: The food here is consistently good, service is very attentive and the latest revamp of this restaurant has improved on something that was already good. They also do catering and hold private small functions on premises, and I have experienced first hand the great level of service and food they cater.
I give it 3 1/2 olives out of 5 as rating