Doors are open well past dinnertime, so this deli isn’t strictly for lunch. But there’s a midday half-sandwich-half-salad deal for 65RMB that allows visitors to conveniently sample their strongest suit. Urdaneta knows what sandwich champions are made of: high-quality bread, good balance of flavours, and a decent portion size. The Cuban (68RMB) is a stunner, starting with the satisfying crunch of crusty bread, continuing through the savoury mix of gently melted cheese on top of thick layers of ham and pork, and ending with just a touch of zesty mustard. The warm, hearty melt blows neighbour Wagas’s offerings clear out of the water.
The quinoa salad (58RMB) tosses in some raisins and red pinto beans to strengthen up a lighter mix with on-and-off sweet notes. The Mediterranean (58RMB) is a soft, simple batch of roasted eggplant and peppers with some feta cheese and tart olives thrown in there. Salads like these are available to go, with jars of olives (25RMB) or vegetables also for sale.
Other than the mainstays of a midday meal, the menu is fairly limited. Pick from a couple of pastas, a smattering of grilled meats – that’s it. The crispy pork belly (128RMB),served on a faux-frying pan, is meltingly rich, though the glazed, crispy skin has an unfortunate tendency to get stuck in teeth. Molina and Urdaneta have cut the menu down to what they do well, and prices are lower across the board.
Long-term Beijingers will recognise some local names: coffee is specially mixed by Rickshaw Roasters, the tea is from Tranquil Tuesdays. The chef has even fooled around with some refreshing smoothie concoctions such as ‘the hydrate’, a cucumber, kiwi and mint mix (38RMB) tinged with a hint of numbing spice. There are some great desserts, too: the little jar of delectably creamy, cinnamon-tinged banana panna cotta (38RMB) is so good it could start an addiction.
The speed with which Modo was forced to completely reinvent itself to fit its newly shoebox-sized space could well have resulted in a disaster. Instead, it has shown itself more than capable of making the most of this new lease of life. Slick packaging, quality food: it’s a spot worth revisiting.