Jennifer Russo of The Market Restaurant + Bar by Jennifer’s is shaking things up in her popular neighborhood eatery. The celebrated chef is teaming up with molecular gastronomist, humanitarian and pop-up dinner extraordinaire Chef David Duarte to create two distinctly different concepts in one space. On one interval (Sunday evenings, Mondays, Tuesdays and fourth Sunday each month), the space becomes Finestre Modern Gastronomy, which will serve five, seven and nine courses (from $60) with optional wine pairings for additional price. On the other interval, fans of The Market can enjoy Russo’s original rustic, largely locally sourced fare (Saturday and Sunday brunch; Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and first and third Saturday of every month for dinner). Here, Russo and Duarte chat with us about the split—and what it means for the Valley’s food scene. 3603 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix, 602.626.5050
This is a big change! What inspired it?
JR: We couldn't believe what an opportunity this presents for the industry and taking this time and sharing space with someone gets us back to a little bit more of the creativity of cooking instead of so much of the stress of keeping the doors open.
Describe the moment you both decided to partner up.
DD: It was actually her brilliant idea to sit down with me after dinner and say ‘Hey I've got this idea, what do you want to do?’ So for me, that is like was like the lightning storm. I was weeks away from buying my own restaurant and then I started looking at all the factors; it was like ‘I can do it, but it was going to be a struggle.’
JR: Once you throw yourself into the survival mode of making sure to keep the doors open, you lose your love, the reason why you did it, which is food and wine and entertainment and creating great experiences for people...
DD: And wine...
What does this new concept mean to you?
DD: My concept comes from my background. I was trained in Italy, I worked in two-star Michelin and one-star Michelin restaurants in Italy and London, so I do a very unique fine dining. I use a lot of modern molecular gastronomy techniques: foams, gels, liquid nitrogen, just different cooking techniques and I fuse those. It can transform the dish into a whole new look and also a whole new flavor.
JR: The ambiance isn't going to change much. At night it's totally different. During the day, it's breezy and open and airy and bright. At night, it becomes sexy and candle-lit with the chandeliers.
Will you be collaborating directly with each other, or will each concepts be completely independent?
DD: We are two distinct restaurants. My menu is completely different. It is a godsend to me. I literally told [Jennifer] just the other day you are literally making my dream of opening my own restaurant come true.
What do you love about this location?
JR: I love the neighborhood; I love the community of it. I think that this is a location where you could have a fun look of a place but bring in really elevated and incredible food. And with the two different concepts, I think people will really appreciate it.
What are some new dishes we can expect to see respectively on each of your menus for spring/summer?
JR: We'll have some favorites come back but we will add a few new things too. I’d love to do ceviche.
DD: Nine-course all Japanese Kobe beef and wagyu dinners. We are the only restaurant in Arizona that will have whole-steer Japanese wagyu beef from Japan.
David, which of Jennifer’s dishes is your favorite?
DD: I absolutely love her posole. I come here just to eat that. Every time I’ve been here that's what I’ve eaten—and her chips.
And Jennifer, which of David’s dishes is your favorite?
JR: I love what he does with the wagyu. I look at David as a chef with his chemistry mind that I can’t wait to learn from. All the flavors are so intense and incredible that it makes for a really cool dining experience.