Customer satisfaction fuels innovation at Mozart Cafe

Photography by Evelyn Robles

IMG_8569-2If necessity is the mother of invention, then creativity is its fairy godmother—especially at Mozart Cafe, Coral Springs’ newest kosher restaurant.

Making the culinary creative decisions is head chef Ohad Namir, who has worked at Mozart Cafe for a few months. Originally from Israel, Namir worked in New York as a sous chef at an American-style grill. Dedicated to using fresh and natural ingredients, his favorite dishes to make are healthier options. But no matter what he’s cooking, Namir enjoys thinking of creative ways to present food so the dishes will not only taste good but look good.

“I want to manifest my imagination on the plate,” Namir says.

An example of Namir’s creativity is the crispy sweet potato salad, which he says is one of his signature dishes as well as one of the most popular. A salad of feta cheese, cucumbers, mixed greens, onions, peppers and cherry tomatoes is artfully crowned by a delectable mound of fried sweet potato crisps.

As the name suggests, Mozart Cafe is the place for classic good eating—a casual setting with simple decor, televisions and large photos of food that serve as billboards for coming attractions. Its large selection of vegetarian items and fish dishes are all kosher, with options such as specialty pastas, pizzas, sandwiches and salads. Manager Eliyahu Talmi’s personal favorite is the Power Breakfast, which includes eggs, avocado, tuna salad , cottage and feta cheeses, a bagel and Israeli salad, made with cucumbers, tomatoes and olives.

“Some days, I just eat that and it lasts me the whole day. I’m not even joking,” Talmi says.

Sushi also is on the menu. Though Mozart Cafe’s other locations in Boca Raton and Sunny Isles serve sushi as well, each location’s menu reflects the individual styles of the sushi chefs.

At the Coral Springs location (the newest, which opened in late March), the sushi menu and specials are created by Gabriel Ortega, who didn’t expect to become a sushi chef. He started his culinary career seven years ago as a kitchen helper to support his bodybuilding hobby and was a pizza chef before he came to Mozart Cafe.

“I’m just enjoying what I’m doing every day,” Ortega says. “I like to make customers happy. That’s the most important thing.”

One of Ortega’s latest creations is the Shanghai roll, a Mexican twist on classic sushi, using tortilla instead of seaweed.

“I’m playing with all the food that I have. I’m a fusion guy,” Ortega says, adding that his style is not traditionally Japanese.

Ortega brought his culture into the creation of the Shanghai roll and was inspired by other sushi designs. Prompted by the texture of the rice, he experimented by combining it with the tortilla and dynamite topping (imitation crab with mayonnaise). When those flavors worked well, he mixed in spicy tuna to add “a little bit of a kick.”

Talmi attests to the creativity he sees in the kitchen. “I come in and see [Ortega] making something, and he’ll tell me, ‘Put this in the display case. It’s today’s special,’” Tamil says. “To me, it’s like ‘poof.’ There it is.”

Adds Ortega: “We come up with different items every day. Why not make it the special of the day?”

Fueling this kitchen creativity is a dedication to the restaurant’s patrons. As customers become regulars and Ortega learns what they like, he offers VIP treatment and goes off-menu. Special occasions also spur new ideas; if someone is celebrating a birthday, Ortega will make a sushi “cake.” Inspired by celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey, Ortega likes to create designs with food as well, molding roses and other shapes out of salmon, tuna and other foods.

“I’ll look at [Namir] and say, ‘Let’s do something different for them. Let’s make them happy,’ ” Ortega says. 

IMG_8596Bite by Bite

Take a look at what goes into the Shanghai roll.

Avocado: Thinly sliced on top

Dynamite topping: Inspired by a crab salad, it includes imitation crab mixed with mayonnaise

Sushi rice: Ortega says sushi rice is sweet, combining nicely with the tortilla

Tortilla wrap: He uses a large soft flour tortilla

Spicy tuna: Ortega says it gives the dish a kick

Cucumbers: Diced to add a fresh crunch

Roe: Salmon eggs

Imitation crab: A processed seafood alternative to non-kosher crab

Mozart Cafe

2049 N. University Drive