A new approach to dining begins at 50th and France when Moderna Kouzina opens its doors this summer in the former Mozza Mia location. Fine modern dining attends to all points in posh surroundings every bit as awe striking as a world-class art museum. Call it a date night destination cushioned amid organic modern surroundings.
The new restaurant is the culmination of a life’s work and passion for Ashii Vrohidis, chef and proprietor. “This is my baby. I learned, I trained, I invested, I ate,” Vrohidis says. “But this is my true baby. This is my grand finale so anything else I’ve done will pale in comparison, including when I was in Hong Kong and Dubai.” Her world of experiences touches every aspect of the restaurant’s pulse.
Her cuisine entertains the eye with daubs that meld into a harmonious whole. “The type of food we are talking about is very complex with many components,” Vrohidis says. “And it’s artfully designed and executed to the point where you want to see it on the designated plate that I specifically chose for that specific entree.”
Entrees contain from 15 to 30 components in small portions on a single plate. “The array of things that we have on the plate is … supposed to be as sculptural as it is functional, and that’s kind of my motto,” Vrohidis says. “Because the space itself should be as engaging as the food, and the presentation of the food should be as engaging as the atmosphere, and it all kind of circles back on itself a thousand times over again. But that’s the idea—you’re really trying to create a dining experience, rather than some place that you just eat.” Forget about take out or outdoor patios here. Settle into a comfy leather chair and soak in the ambiance designed to dazzle from floor to ceiling.
Planning for Moderna Kouzina began nearly a decade ago. As architect, designer, chef and owner of the restaurant, Vrohidis carefully considered every detail. Fortunately for us, the 50th and France area had the right venue to suit her demographic. “Edina just seemed to have every aspect that I was searching for, and more importantly if you go over to 50th and France, it is a community. It’s a community of people that have a similar heart—that want something amazing there,” she says. “They need amazing there and they appreciate it.”
Prepare to be amazed. “The atmosphere itself will lend itself to most people having the awe factor. When you walk in the front door we have a 20 x 30 foot chandelier that I designed and had custom-made myself,” Vrohidis says. “Every element inside the restaurant is a ‘wow’ factor. There’s a lounge area. There’s a full bar. There’s a chef’s counter. It’s an open kitchen so it allows you to basically see how and why restaurants of this caliber function—because we love ambiance and we love the experience. So as a hospitality specialist, we are literally there to make your dining experience your pleasure with every sense you have, rather than just the food.”
Stone and brick walls were restored. Enhancing design elements were added throughout the restaurant. “We have entire perforated walls that are made of metal. We have all-natural stone inside the facility, all-walnut counter tops, specialty tiles. We basically spared no expense to create the air of luxury,” Vrohidis says. “It is actually probably the most sophisticated restaurant for a long time in the metro area.”
Dishes share the upscale modern tendencies of the décor. Appetizers, entrees and desserts can only delight from a menu tested and tailored by Vrohidis. “The one that ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ everybody, and makes everyone drool and go crazy … when I set it down is the scallop dish with ravioli. ($30) It’s done in a way which you would never have anticipated because it’s almost deconstructed and reconstructed,” she says. “It’s absolutely brilliant.” Accents of peas and lemon beurre blanc underline flavors.
In keeping with the vibe of a Midwest setting, house-made meatballs are a popular feature. ($27) Four meats are ground in a labor-intensive process that has no need for fillers of bread and sugar. Ribbon pasta, braised vegetables and red sauce make ideal accompaniments.
Brunch is worth a special visit if only for the deep custard quiche Lorraine. ($19) “I have a 6-inch quiche that just tastes like pure bliss,” Vrohidis says. “Well it’s basically a long cooking process. It’s almost six hours in the oven from start to finish. It cooks gently and slowly throughout the entire quiche turning it into almost a custard.” The quiche is sliced and seared before serving. To brighten the rich egg creaminess, a fresh asparagus salad comes along side.
Local and sustainable ingredients are used as much as possible. Quality is the foremost consideration. Some ingredients and many wines are sourced internationally, and all through recognized and reputable sources.
An extensive wine list and cocktail selection includes favorites—think pinot grigio and chardonnay. More unique and adventurous vintages are on the list to complement the breadth of flavors some dishes contain. For cocktails, popular libations are available along with unique craft drinks.
Superior style and taste is Moderna Kouzina’s mantra. The smelt cured as anchovies for a Caesar dressing hail from up north while the poussin (young chicken) has more distant origins. These are just a few of the ingredients inspiring Vrohidis who delights in venturing beyond the norm. “I have a duty as a chef to create new flavor profiles for people,” she says.
The culinary arts are a form of expression for Vrohidis, who is no stranger to creativity. “It’s a lifestyle that people either love it and embrace it or they don’t. I know that sounds dramatic, but it’s a true statement because you have to love it every second of every day. You have to have a quest for this ingenuity that I think that people lost long ago,” she explains.
Her extensive travels and time spent living in other countries have changed the way she views food. A soulful awareness occurred and changed her perspective. For her, food evolved into something more than the usual. “Food became for your soul, instead of just a means to eat. That’s what I hope to bring to Minneapolis and Edina,” she says.
The effect is universal. “Food is the one thing that unties everybody. If you have a smile and some food everyone gets along,” she says. “It’s no problem.” Maybe modern cuisine won’t change the world, but with Vrohidis’ skillful touch, we can take pause to notice the finer things.
An Organic Modern Home
The term “organic modern” was coined by Vrohidis to describe the innovative style of her new Minneapolis home. As architect, she addressed every feature—right down to the dining room chairs. Edina-based John Krammar & Sons built the award-wining structure.
A balance of form and function bring out the best in a slender skewed rectangular lot. Lines are sleek yet purposeful. The living room, dining room and kitchen join into one airy room emanating smooth elegance. A muted color scheme unifies angular elements into a breathtaking modern-styled home.
The Moderna Kouzina restaurant mirrors her home’s stylishness on a more dramatic scale. Vrohidis created a delightfully impressive modern kitchen two times over.
The home kitchen is a special place for Vrohidis where she creates recipes and even does her own butchering. Bone marrow—an all too often forgotten fragment of meat—is one of her favorite dishes. She spoons right into it. Making the most of what’s on hand is a distinct talent.
Moderna Kouzina is open for dinner during the week, and lunch and dinner on weekends with a Sunday brunch menu.
Prices range from $15 for a small plate to $45 for an entrée. Complimentary valet parking is available.