When Ashii Vrohidis says she doesn’t cut corners at Moderna Kouzina, now open in the former Mozza Mia space, she really means it.
Staff arrive at 8 a.m. to cook all day before the doors open at 4 p.m., preparing everything from scratch, including the stocks.
“You will watch as barrels of chicken feet come through the door,” Vrohidis said.
Onions sweat for an hour or more until they are sweet and tender and finally added to the sauce.
“It makes everything elevated,” she said. “You can taste that it took one hour to roast that garlic.”
Because many entrées take five-and-a-half hours to prepare, popular dishes can sell out in a night, such as the scallops served with scratch-made ravioli and lemon beurre blanc.
The restaurant specializes in modern French cuisine with Spanish, Greek, Italian and other international influences.
“We’ve lived everywhere, and I mean everywhere,” said Vrohidis, now a Linden Hills resident.
Vrohidis is the sole owner of the business, and she drew from her background in design to personally design the restaurant space, all of its furnishings and all of its artwork.
“You can do modern and still have warmth,” she said. “In a world of white, there is gray and beige.”
Some of the contractors were puzzled by her attention to detail, she said. She embedded gold leaf into the wall behind the bar so that it glistens at night.
“It adds another essence you can’t see initially,” she said.
A big open kitchen allows patrons to smell the aromas, see the smoke and fire, and sample extra bites on slower nights. Seats have “hotel spacing,” Vrohidis said, so customers enjoy a bit more privacy. A chandelier above the bar is inspired by her favorite Japanese knife. The dark bathrooms feature a signature scent created for the restaurant.
“You can have a luxurious experience while still five minutes away from home,” Vrohidis said.
A “living wall” of greenery above the street entry aims to evoke the pergolas and cliffs of Northern Greece.
Vrohidis left the floor as-is, complete with marks from past expansions and permanent wine spills.
“That was obviously a good night for somebody,” she said. “…You can see in the floor the history of the entire building.”
Vrohidis spent four months cleaning and reassembling a red snapper skeleton, sinking it in plaster for display at the restaurant. She initially wanted to showcase a massive fossil, but after seeing the price tag, decided to take on a project herself, choosing a fish with a dorsal bone reminiscent of the dinosaurs.
“This exemplifies everything we do at the restaurant,” she said. “Create something new, and do something wonderful.”