JTwo Fort Worth flagship restaurants have new chefs taking over in the kitchen. Both are located downtown, and both are inside fancy hotels. First, Toro Toro inside the Worthington Hotel brings in new Executive Chef Jonathan Esparza. The Italian restaurant il Modo, located on the ground floor of the new Kimpton Harper hotel, also has a new chef in Greg Pawlowski.
Toro Toro landed in Fort Worth in the fall of 2019 as the first Texas location for chef and restaurateur Richard Sandoval’s international dining powerhouse. There are also Toro Toros in remote hotspots like Dubai and Istanbul. Every Toro Toro restaurant opening means the rock star treatment. In Fort Worth, guests were able to walk through pillars of fire at the entrance. Another Toro Toro opened in Houston in November and the Dom Pérignon sank.
Sandoval will make two special public appearances in Fort Worth later this month. On Wednesday, March 30, he will host a special Latin American Experience dinner in partnership with Clase Azul at Toro Toro to introduce Chef Esparza, who will continue to build on the contemporary steakhouse experience with the pan-Latin flavors that Toro Toro is. known. for in many ways.
The special dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. and tickets are $220 with limited seating available through Open Table Experiences (click here for tickets). A portion of the proceeds from the dinner will also benefit World Central Kitchen’s humanitarian efforts.
While in town promoting his new Fort Worth Chef, Sandoval will appear alongside Chef Esparza for the very first time, representing Toro Toro at the Fort Worth Food and Wine Festival’s Tacos + Tequila Launch Event at the Heart of the Ranch on Thursday, March 31. .
“This year, Jonathan will lend his unique sense of creativity to Toro Toro menus and our seasonal programming and events,” Sandoval said in a statement. “We’re thrilled to partner with the Fort Worth Food and Wine Festival for the first time and create one of our favorite taco and tequila pairings for Fort Worth foodies.”
Well-versed in Latin culture and cuisine, Chef Esparza has a degree in cuisine from Universidad Tegnologica De Bahia De Banderas and Culinary School in Nayarit, Mexico. He comes to Fort Worth after serving as executive chef and banquet chef for Four Seasons Rancho Encantado in Sante Fe, New Mexico, where he also created the menus.
Esparza will also join Fort Worth’s top chefs and show off their grilling skills at the Fort Worth Food and Wine Festival’s grand finale – Ring of Fire: A Next-Level Cookout – on Sunday, April 3.
The new head of Kimpton
Fort Worth’s first-ever Kimpton hotel, The Harper, opened in June. On top of that there was the modern Italian restaurant il Modo and its bar on the penthouse level, known as Refinery 714. The menu was modest to start with as the hotel opened just as the world was rolling out of its COVID hibernations.
Now the restaurant has a new executive chef who is expanding and reviewing menus and possibilities. Pawlowski has rolled out new menus for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. I recently checked it on a follow-up visit. Read my first taste review here.
Born and raised in Michigan, Pawlowski learned many of his techniques from watching his native Italian grandmother cook for their family. He also brings a detailed curriculum vitae. He began his studies at the Culinary Institute of America in New York, before working under Wolfgang Puck, opening four restaurants in eight years. Pawlowski has recently led kitchens for other notable hoteliers such as Westin Hotels & Resorts and W Hotels.
Pawlowski has expanded the pasta section of il Modo’s menu, which now includes six pasta dishes (including new linguine and clam sauce, and new rigatoni with dry-aged beef bolognese), as well as a of risotto with rock prawns and creamy mascarpone. He also added wood-fired pizzas to the menu ― a classic Margherita and a daily creation from the chef.
On a previous visit to il Modo, my group shared the Grilled Branzino―a sumptuous whole sea bass dish. The new shared main course for the table is the 42-ounce Florentine Porter. It’s a huge cut of bone-in meat served with roasted garlic and bone marrow butter ($120). As our table was only two, we took a pass for now, but will remember that when we return with a larger group.
Plus, we already had our eye on two more new menu items. The six ounce tenderloin is served with blistered tomatoes and the most interesting side I’ve tried in quite a while. Grilled cippolini onions arrived positively charred. The plate was painted with a rich balsamic, hinting at the reason for their black tint. Yet nothing prepared us for the silky smooth flavor bomb, only a small bite added to the pleasure of the perfectly prepared filet.
The braised lamb shank is tender to die for, slathered on Parmesan polenta and draped in a rich romesco sauce and pan jus, imparting its almond and red pepper notes. We enjoyed a side of Brussels sprouts dressed with chunks of guanciale, and more onion cippolini and balsamic, topped with a snowdrift of fluffy Parmesan cheese.
For dessert, in addition to the superb tiramisu, there is now a traditional cannoli. Pawlowski also has plenty of seasonal programming lined up. From elaborate themed wine dinners to private pasta-making lessons in Il Modo’s Pasta Room.
These new chefs with impressive pedigrees add to the power of restaurants in downtown Fort Worth.