A new menu had already dropped at Meridian, Eater Dallas’s 2021 restaurant of the year, by the time the James Beard Awards long list revealed in February that the executive chef was the only Dallas-Fort Worth name under consideration for the nationwide outstanding chef category. Of course, by that point regulars at Meridian may have already noticed perhaps the biggest quiet change to the menu: The chef and his second in command, Justin Mosley, had done a switcheroo — placing Mosley as executive chef, with Borges giving himself the simple title of chef.
If it seems like a demotion, it’s not. Borges’s actual title is Vice President of Culinary at the Village Dallas, where he oversees all the restaurants in the mixed-use development, and can still be seen in the kitchen at Meridian nightly. Borges’ style and stories are all over the new menu — but with a simple title switch, he saw an opportunity to promote the hard work Mosley has been doing and highlight their partnership in the kitchen.
“People describe restaurants as ‘chef-driven’ or ‘farm-to-table,’” Borges says. “Here, and for me, it’s more about how I can promote growth, development, and opportunity for people to get ahead in their career.”
The two first worked together when Borges was chef de cuisine at Uchi in 2015. They came back together when Borges spent a short stint at the now-closed FT33, where Mosley was working in the kitchen. The two partnered through Borges’s time at the Joule hotel and again when Meridian came around.
“We’ve always been similar, looking at the same chefs and reading the same kind of cookbooks,” Mosley says. And he credits a shared eclectic taste as the bridge that helps them develop the menu, integrating Borges’s Brazilian heritage, their mutual training in European and American fare, and two careers’ worth of experience. “Meridian is a team effort,” Borges says. “I like the idea of turning restaurants into a team-driven kitchen, rather than chef-driven.”
For Mosley, “It’s not about the title, it’s about the work.”
The latest iteration of Meridian’s menu includes wagyu kibbeh cru, a take on beef tartare that Borges describes as inspired by Lebanese cooking making its way into Brazilian culture. “Kibbeh is at every corner bar and gas station or bus terminal in the country — the fried version. At Lebanese restaurants, you’d find kibbeh cru, the more traditional kind where bulgur is mixed with ground beef and warm spices. That’s where the inspiration started,” he says.
To translate the dishes Borges’ grew up with into dishes for Meridian, Mosley “immersed himself into the culture, doing a lot of reading and studying,” Borges says. Then the duo started bouncing ideas off each other — this is how they’ve worked together from the jump, with Borges describing an idea and its influences while Mosley studies and returns to the conversation so they can organically get it to the table.
Borges brings African culture in Brazilian cuisine to light in a dish of anolini en brodo, which uses tucupi broth as its base, layered with duck confit in pasta and red vein sorrel. The staff explained when Eater Dallas dined that it is best eaten with the pasta opened and the duck submerged in the broth. It eats like a chunky soup, not so different from Italian style, but using some of the most core Brazilian ingredients. “Tucupi is fermented yuca juice, and yuca is probably the most important ingredient in Brazilian cuisine.” Borges says. “It’s an Indigenous item that has been done in so many ways, manipulated by slaves and the Indigenous people to get the most out of it.”
Moqueca, a seafood stew, has been on the menu in some form since Meridian opened. It is now updated to feature fried skate, and a coconut and fried plantain broth. “This was the hardest dish to put on the menu for us. We tested it so many times to try and get it to the point where I felt it was the right homage to my grandmother, and the right representation of the dish,” Borges says.
Skate was a fish both chefs always wanted to try in the recipe, and Mosley recently found a reliable source for it. “We wanted it for the texture,” Mosley says. “It’s just meaty enough without being too dense, and flaky without falling apart. It’s supposed to be very homey.”
The stuffed quail is a new addition, filled with linguica calabresa and served on yuca puree. The touches of Brazilian cuisine come in the scallion refogado, which forms the base of many dishes, and the Portuguese linguica.
The menu ends with new desserts, including a meringue-based pavlova, with grapefruit cremeux and lime toffee. The citrus-heavy dessert reflects the season in Texas and offers a gluten-free dessert option for diners.
Another big change on the menu? Prices. Meridian has moved to a prix fixe menu set at $73 per person for four courses, with an additional fee of $40 per person for wine pairings with each course. That’s in addition to the bar menu, which allows diners to go for smaller plates and get a taste of Meridian. “This style of dining allows us to answer a lot of questions without them being asked — especially in modern Brazilian food, a cuisine 90 percent of our guests have no experience with,” Mosley says.
And, it allowed the kitchen to streamline the menu. The goal was to create a four-course meal that pushes the creativity of the chefs, offers a fine dining experience, and doesn’t break the budgets of diners. And Borges and Mosley hope it makes regulars out of more diners.