Dallas chef blends beloved Latin cuisines in his Modest new restaurant
There's a new restaurant with impressive chef credentials opening in Dallas' Oak Lawn district. Called Modest Rogers Kitchen & Bar, it'll open in a cute little space at 3811 Fairmount St., right off Oak Lawn Avenue, where it will feature a tasty combination of Venezuelan, Spanish, and Mexican food.
The restaurant will open in mid-September.
Modest is from chef Modesto Rodriguez, an El Centro alum who has worked at acclaimed restaurants such as Nonna and Carbone's, and his wife Kathryn. They set the stage for this in 2019 when they launched a startup called Mo's Plancha, where they first came up with the idea of showcasing food from various regions of Europe and South America.
Mo's Plancha participated in random pop-ups including a buzzy one in January at Trinity Cider Brewery with Ulam Modern Filipino Kitchen, which got them on the foodie radar.
When the Fairmount space became available, they decided to take that next step. "It's like a little house with a small kitchen — exactly what I was looking for," Rodriguez says.
His goal is to cook the kind of food he grew up eating, but also to highlight the foods he's encountered since moving to Texas.
"I'm from South America, I moved to the U.S. from Venezuela when I was 8," he says. "It's probably corny to say that what I'm doing is from the heart. It's from Venezuelan culture, but also with European influences such as Spanish cuisine. And I grew up in West Texas, so I also wanted to incorporate some of what I experienced there."
"I try to do things that represent all of those elements, including Tex-Mex and the northern Mexican foods that changed with time and with the influence of migrants and evolving palates, resulting in what I think is some amazing food," he says.
The menu is still a fluid thing, but he'll prioritize seasonality, using produce from purveyors like Walnut Creek Farm, and place an emphasis on house-made flour tortillas, one of his specialties.
It could be simple dishes like blistered shishito peppers. Or else fried tostones — mashed plantains tossed in a chili sauce, fried until the outside gets crunchy, and salted while warm. Or maybe hand-rolled tequeños, a Venezuelan snack in which dough is wrapped around a core of cheese, formed into a breadstick, then fried. He likes to serve them with avocado aioli.
They've given the space some handsome touches including a long wooden banquette that runs along the wall, and a pretty wooden lattice facade with lots of greenery.
"The space is unique, we're still figuring out how the flow will go, and what we want to be doing as far as the food goes," he says.
As for the restaurant name, it's a fond spin on his own name.
"I had a friend in high school who would jokingly suggest that 'Modest Rogers' should be my nickname, so it was always there," he says. "I liked the sound of it for a restaurant name — it's familiar yet it's unique."