After working in restaurants since age 14, Jose Morales felt it was time to open one of his own.
“It was an idea that just popped out of nowhere and then the next thing I knew, we were coming back from Knoxville with an empty box truck about three or four years ago,” Morales said.
For two years Jose’s Kitchen operated as a food truck. But his fans encouraged him to open a restaurant, which he did in March 2019 at 721 President Place in Smyrna.
Morales said most of the recipes were created in his kitchen at home. “Little by little” he crafted a scratch-made menu that is a fusion of Mexican- and Asian-inspired cuisines, with dishes like steamed dumplings, tacos, burgers and wraps.
“I worked at Asian restaurants and worked at Mexican restaurants and I said, ‘Let’s put them together and see what happens,'” said Morales, who was also inspired by his father, who was the cook in the family.
Shrimp or fish tacos are made using an Asian-inspired tempura batter. Then there’s tempura chicken or shrimp tossed in a spicy chipotle sauce.
He’s been working on some new recipes lately, too. Expect a new steak dish and Mexican egg rolls. More items are in the test phase.
Recently I went for the first time with Kathy Ferrell, Smyrna’s public information officer and a well-known advocate of buying and eating local.
I wanted to try a place in Smyrna I’d never been and she suggested Jose’s Kitchen, a favorite with workers at Town Hall, she said.
Getting to talk to Morales was a plus since he explained the inspiration behind the menu.
We started the meal with gyoza, which are steamed and fried pork dumplings. It was a hard pick, because everything we had was great. But this was my favorite thing on the menu. Sweet and savory.
The best part of the Mandarin salad was the ginger dressing, similar to the side salad you get at Japanese restaurants or sushi bars.
Kathy ordered one of her favorite menu items, the chipotle wrap. It’s made with chipotle chicken wrapped in a flour tortilla and served with sweet potato fries.
“The chipotle wrap is the perfect combination of smoky, mild jalapeno with cilantro to balance the heat,” she said.
I decided to go with an Asian dish, so I picked honey sake chicken. Similar to sweet and sour chicken, this dish had a little spicy kick and it’s made with white meat chicken chunks.
In addition to the blended menu, Jose’s Kitchen serves beer. Morales is working on getting a liquor license so he can serve mixed drinks and wine.
If you have a large party, call ahead and Jose’s Kitchen can accommodate.
Jose’s continues to operate two food trucks, although the menu is a little smaller than the restaurant’s offerings. Keep up with locations on streetfoodfinder.com/joseskitchensmyrna.
Check out Jose’s Kitchen online at joseskitchentn.com or call 615-648-6133 for more details or to make reservations for a large party.