Chef Jett Mora seems perfectly placed at the helm of Cafe Modern. (Photo by Courtney Dabney).
Café Modern's new executive chef, Jett Mora.
Migas is served layered with a folded omeltte. (Photo by Courtney Dabney).
Doughy five ingredient Angel Biscuits. (Photo by Courtney Dabney).
Cafe Modern's spectacular view of the reflecting pond and Tadao Ando's architectural masterpiece. (Photo by Courtney Dabney).
His unique spin on Eggs Benedict speaks with a Southern accent and Berkshire pork belly. (Photo by Courtney Dabney).
Elevated overnight oats take a star turn. (Photo by Courtney Dabney).
When Wolfgang Puck Catering took over operations at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, it shook up the North Texas restaurant world as PaperCity first reported in March. Now, we’re getting our first taste at the museum’s recently reopened namesake restaurant Cafe Modern.
It is now under the direction of Chef Jett Mora and open for lunch, brunch and bar service after a yearlong COVID closure. Mora is a seasoned Wolfgang Puck Catering veteran and Roxanne Mclarry returns to Cafe Modern as its general manager.
A New Cafe Modern?
The restaurant’s famed setting, overlooking a dramatic reflecting pool and modern landscape would be intimidating for any newcomer. The dramatic Tadao Ando architecture is as much of a masterpiece as any of the artworks displayed inside the museum. But after a recent weekend brunch at the reimagined restaurant, I can tell you that Jett Mora is feeling right at home.
Cafe Modern made a name for itself with seasonal menus rooted in Texas ingredients. So how does Mora marry his own Pilipino heritage and his upbringing and career in Los Angeles’ restaurant world melting pot with Texas?
Mora tells PaperCity Fort Worth that learning the lay of the land and building a network of purveyors, growers and makers lends itself to producing local flavors. He’s been busily forging all those relationships for the past few months since being named by Wolfgang Puck Catering to head the prestigious post.
“I came here for a chance to work with our regional director, Andrew Swanson,” Mora says. “We’ve been working hard on R&D.”
Behold the new birria beef migas. I couldn’t resist sampling Mora’s take. Since the chef grew up in LA, I knew it would be the real deal. Served atop a toasted corn tortilla rather than having typical chips mixed in and already soggy by the time it’s served, Mora’s birria beef migas retain a slightly crispy texture.
Rather than the standard egg scramble, Mora presents a delicately folded omelet. The guajillo chile-braised beef is falling apart in its rich tomato salsa. The dish is dressed with cilantro, onion, avocado crema and queso fresco with pinto beans.
But this chef is only getting started.
Mora’s unique spin on eggs Benedict adds some truly Southern notes. The base is fresh ciabatta bread, with its texture and cervices soaking up the soy caramel glazed Berkshire pork belly protein. That is topped by a blend of wilted collard greens and spinach, which imparts an unexpected hint of bitterness. Then two lovely sous vide Timberview Farmstead eggs and a rich hollandaise sauce with only the slightest bit of lemon finish it all off.
Want more? Mora’s five ingredient Angel Biscuits are served as part of a Southern fried chicken biscuit sandwich or on the side. These doughy, square-cut biscuits, with an almost cornbread-like texture will challenge anyone’s just-one-little-bite rule.
“I am surprised by how health conscious people are here,” Mora says. “I want to do a Keto plate and add more Blue Zones friendly, plant based menus to the mix.”
Mora was unaware of the Blue Zones healthy lifestyle habits before coming to Fort Worth. But he now understands that many local diners are well-trained to look for that designation next to menu items and he’s on board in a big way.
One good vegetarian brunch dish at this new Cafe Modern is the overnight oats bowl. It’s almost too pretty to dive into, lined with fresh berries and bringing all the appeal of a magnificent charcuterie board. You need to sit back a minute to take it all in. You’ll find a spoon of spring berry preserves, coconut chia pudding and Turkish yogurt drizzled with Kelly Farms honey. A little coconut milk and crunchy cherry walnut granola round out the split-able dish.
“When I dine with my chef friends, we order 20 or more items and share them,” Mora says. “That’s the vibe I want to create.”
Cafe Modern is quickly getting there. And now dinner service will be returning in the coming weeks. With a chef who is cooking like he’s very much at home.