A former soccer player turned bartender just opened Toronto’s latest Eritrean lounge

Joining the ranks of local spots like African Palace and Lalibela, Bloor West has added a new spot for authentic Eritrean and Ethiopian eats to the block, smack dab between Koreatown and Bloordale Village.

The Mask Bar & Restaurant is located at 965 Bloor St West, close to Ossington, and is owned and operated by former Eritrean-born soccer player turned food industry aficionado, Samsom Tadese. The new spot opened back in August of this year, and has been serving up big portions, authentic flavours and warm, welcoming vibes for breakfast, lunch and dinner ever since. 

A 10-year veteran of the food industry, Samsom owned a bar in Uganda before immigrating to Canada in 2019 with his Auntie, who does most of the cooking behind the scenes. She is the authentic edge in the kitchen, giving patrons a true taste of the duo’s home country, providing eaters a distinct flavour profile marked by an eclectic combination of spicy, sour, tart and earthy.  

The Mask prides itself on big portions, warm flavours, and plenty of options for vegetarians and vegans alike.

With capacity for around 50 people indoors, the atmosphere is spacious but still intimate, described by Samsom as, “the perfect place for sharing a meal among friends, with big portions that can accommodate just about any dietary restriction.”

Menu features include meat platters with the choice of goat or lamb which can be made spicy or not depending on preference. Bonus? All meat is 100 per cent Halal.

Vegetarians and vegans can join in on the fun too with tons of veggie-based options, like the Veggie Combo, a colourful platter of collard greens, lentils, red beets and spinach sitting atop a traditional flatbread made from teff flour. 

The Veggie Combo: collard greens, Alicha, Birsin, red beets, and spinach served on Injera (traditional flatbread made from teff flour).

Be sure to order the Shiro to start – an Ethiopian flatbread encasing a flavourful mixture of ground up roasted chickpeas, seasoned and simmered with onion, ginger, garlic and chili. 

Beyond the delicious eats, Friday and Saturday nights are kicked up a notch with DJs spinning Afrobeat and 90s R&B music. Need a little liquid courage before you start dancing along? The bar is stocked with a wide selection of national and premium beers and wines with plans to expand into cocktails in the very near future.

Whether you partied at The Mask the night before or are just looking for a new experience, plan a slow start to your Sunday with an Eritrean/Ethiopian inspired breakfast. Swing by for a traditional coffee ceremony, called Jebena Buna where you can watch a woman perform the ritual of roasting green coffee beans until they’re basically black. The beans are then grounded using a mortar and pestle, and boiled with hot water before being poured into small, ornate cups for guests to sip. 

The Mask Bar & Restaurant is open Mondays to Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. 

 

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