Urbano Cafe Makes Quiet Chef Change

While eating at Urbano Cafe, the subject of this week's review, I had a hard time figuring out the menu. A pasta Bolognese and other dishes point to Italian cooking, but an evening special touted pork belly and Vietnamese honey. This odd sort of fusion is something I wouldn't expect to work, so I called Mitch Kauffman, who's owned the restaurant since it first opened on McKinney Avenue in Uptown, to see how he ended up with such a weird menu

See also: This Week's Review: Urbano Cafe

In the Uptown days, Urbano was decidedly Italian. It offered a simple menu of pastas, paninis and salads. But the rent was too high and eventually Kaufman bolted, heading to East Dallas to the same shopping plaza as Jimmy's Food Store.

After the move, Kaufman opened up the menu to his chef Ke'o Velasquez, who grew up in Hawaii and folded in flavors from home. But just last month Velasquez was replaced by Kevin Top, a Cambodian chef whose influence has taken Urbano Cafe in another direction.

Top's arrival went unnoticed by the media in Dallas. Before Kaufman gave Top his first job as an executive chef, he worked at Bistro N, the restaurant tucked in the Nordstrom in NorthPark Center. While the menu has shifted further, it's almost as if the customers in the dining room haven't noticed the change at all. They're as happy and boisterous as they've always been in this East Dallas BYOB, which consistently draws an energetic crowd.

Grab a bottle of your favorite wine and check out Top's new work. I can promise one thing: You will not be bored.

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