New Modest Rogers restaurant in Oak Lawn is Spanish-influenced with Venezuelan roots

After five years working as a sous chef at two of Dallas’ best Italian restaurants, Nonna and of carbon Fine Food and Wine, Chef Modesto “Mo” Rodriguez opened his first restaurant on September 16th. He calls him Modest Rogers, a Spanish-influenced restaurant with plenty of patio space on Fairmount Street in Oak Lawn.

The name Modest Rogers comes from a high school friend who joked that this is what Modesto Rodriguez’s name would translate to in English. “I always wanted to use it as a band name,” he says, but instead it became the embodiment of another dream thanks to the encouragement of his wife, Kathryn Rodriguez, a full-time medical student. She was the one who prompted Rodriguez to quit a part-time graphic designer and bartender job at Stan’s Blue Note after they met, when he wooed her by cooking her meals on date nights.

A native of Venezuela, Rodriguez spent his primary years in Euless and attended Midland High School after migrating with his family at a young age. He considers himself “more Texan than Venezuelan,” he says, and maintains he doesn’t want to be labeled as a Venezuelan chef. “I don’t want restrictions,” he said with a chuckle.

Modesto Rodriguez and his wife Kathryn run Modest Rogers at Oak Lawn.
Modesto Rodriguez and his wife Kathryn run Modest Rogers at Oak Lawn.(Courtesy of Modeste Rogers)

Instead, Rodriguez seeks to showcase the foods he grew up eating in North and West Texas, such as Tex-Mex and Mexican cuisine, while exploring the roots of Venezuelan cuisine, something he considers to be. heavily influenced by Spanish with West African techniques.

For example, unlike the nixtamalization process used in Mexico, the masa for Venezuelan daily bread – the arepas – was originally made by pounding corn and water in a pestle, a giant wooden mortar that was wielded standing, similar to the method used by West Africans. to beat cassava and other tubers in the manufacture of foufou.

He eventually wants to expand Modest Rogers’ small menu to include arepas from scratch as well as flour tortillas, but in the meantime diners can start by savoring a perfect example of Rodriguez’s synthesis of culinary training and cooking. education in a dress version. de nopales – a cactus salad with peppery radishes, fresh herbs, fried shallots and candied tomatoes from San Marzano.

Nopales are a dish he loved when he lived in West Texas, and cactus is one of his favorite cooking ingredients for its texture and flavor, he says. He knows they can get mushy and slimy if cooked for too long, like okra, so he tends to carefully time and adds vinegar while cooking to keep the dish vibrant. The sliced ​​nopal wafers are finished with a char a la plancha and a fish sauce vinaigrette, making this a singular dish that on its own deserves a reservation.

In this July 2021 photo, Jeff Karetnick and April Segovia pose on the patio at 2100 Greenville Ave., Dallas, where the Ragin 'Crab Cafe was located.  They finally open the Belgian bar Meyboom Brasserie after a false start at another address on Greenville Avenue.
The nopales salad at Modest Rogers, a new Spanish-influenced restaurant in Oak Lawn.
The nopales salad at Modest Rogers, a new restaurant with Spanish influence in Oak Lawn.(Courtesy of Modeste Rogers)

Rodriguez praises Julian Barsotti, the chef-owner of Nonna and Carbone’s who is set to open two more restaurants this fall, for the knowledge he has passed on, including how to rotate during closure. His experience working at Nonna last year, along with a small kitchen and supply chain issues, are factors that have led him to keep the menu small at Modest Rogers, with seasonal dishes in rotation. .

The two main courses he’s been told to keep are the carne asada ($ 28) with Texas-raised wagyu from Rosewood Ranch, served with chimichurri, marbled potatoes and arugula salad, and scallops from Rosewood Ranch. Buttery Nantucket with Fried Corn Ribs ($ 24). The sheared and fried corn ribs are meant to be eaten with the hands and look like rue elotés with butter, sour cream and Parmesan cheese.

“I always thought that the elotés would be a great addition to the butter element. [of scallops]He said, “but I didn’t want to just put corn or a whole cob on the plate.” When I saw the ribs on the internet, I thought that was a good way to present it. It makes the plate cleaner, and I’m a big fan of eating with your hands. “

For dessert, there’s the quesillo, a denser version of the flan where Rodriguez uses brown sugar, brandy and orange juice to make the caramel instead of the typical rum, “to change it and get more flavor. citrus, ”he says.

Modest Rogers is currently open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday, and lunch service runs this week on Thursday and Friday with salads, a burger, a Cuban, and a turkey sandwich.

Temporary outdoor weather and the BYOB policy now make the perfect time to hang one of the three patio tables. The restaurant space actually has two more patios, which Rodriguez hopes to expand soon, where he will set up a smoker for a barbecue. And once he gets his liquor license, he’ll serve beers from Peticolas and other local breweries, along with an affordable wine list, tequila and mezcals, and ‘maybe’ ( hopefully!) margaritas.

Especially now with the option to bring your own alcohol, Modest Rogers is a new restaurant to try where you won’t leave feeling like you’ve spent the equivalent of a short vacation. Even though 90 percent of the menu is made from scratch, Rodriguez wants to keep the prices affordable. “I want this to be a place for Thursday nights too,” he says.

Modest Rogers is located at 3811 Fairmount Street, Dallas.

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