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Thursday, October 16, 2008

10 Hot Restaurants in Kansas City, MO

10 Hot Restaurants in Kansas City, MO


Rating Guide

40 Sardines
Rating: 15/20
11942 Roe Ave.
Overland Park, KS
Naysayers weren't so sure that 40 Sardines, restaurateur-executive chef Debbie Gold's stylish New American restaurant, would make it in suburbia. They were wrong. With a menu that changes weekly and makes great use of local, seasonal produce, the restaurant isn't just a destination spot in a strip mall---it has helped define the local dining scene. You may find seared ahi with wasabi butter and a sushi rice cake, and tomato-braised short ribs with stuffed Vidalia onions and tangy barbecue glaze. Gold has kept her 20 for $20 vino selection, but added some site-specific entries, including one dedicated to wines grown on Spring Mountain in Napa Valley. And the children's menu isn't just the same old choices of burgers and dogs: it includes homemade macaroni and cheese and grilled salmon.

Swizzle Martini & Wine Bistro
Rating: 15/20
7100 Wornall Rd.
Kansas City, MO
Swizzle Martini & Wine Bistro is a first for Kansas City native Ryan Torpey. Although he attended culinary school in Oregon and worked in some of Kansas City's notable restaurants---including Le Fou Frog---this is the first kitchen he calls his own. Many of his dishes reflect the time he spent with Linda Duerr at Frondizi's, a regional Italian eatery. At first bite, his food seems rustic; another bite and diners will find that meats are properly cooked and served with velvety sauces with just the right balance of fat and acid. Sautéed wild mushrooms and goat cheese are enveloped in puff pastry and served with a Marsala cream sauce. Pan-roasted chicken is accompanied by mashed potatoes with a touch of horseradish and moistened with a heady wild mushroom sauce. Scallop and goat cheese ravioli actually are whisper-thin slices of quick-fried potato, layered with seared scallops. The wine list is rich with uncommon and good-value wines, including a Codesa de Leganza Crianza. But don’t overlook the cocktails either: the Swizzle Bourbon number, topped with ginger ale and garnished with an orange slice, is a delight.

Rating: 14/20
900 Westport Rd.
Kansas City, MO
Chefs and owners Colby and Megan Garrelts deliver a big city dining experience in Kansas City with a progressive American menu, new varieties of desserts, and a select wine list.

La Cucina di Mamma
Rating: 14/20
6227 Brookside Blvd.
Kansas City, MO
Jake Imperiale's 24-seat neighborhood haunt in Brookside is adjacent to Bella Napoli, his Italian grocery and deli. With his partner, Giorgio Antongirolami, and chef, Gama Coronado, he crafts some of the finest, simplest Italian fare in town. Rice balls are stuffed with ground beef, peas and cheese and fried until crunchy and golden. Insalata rustica is a salad of fava beans, red and yellow bell peppers, roasted fennel and bacon dressed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Lasagna consists of a half-dozen layers of noodles with zucchini, ham and hard-boiled egg. Pizza-lovers will swoon over the Neapolitan-style pies, made from imported flour, tomatoes and cheese. The Pugliese version is fashioned from tomato sauce, caramelized onions, fresh mozzarella and hot pepper oil. And if it is Thursday, gnocchi is on the menu as a daily special. Among the options: butternut squash, tomato-basil and mushroom.

Le Fou Frog
Rating: 14/20
400 E. 5th St.
Kansas City, MO
Frenchman Mano Rafael and his Kansas City-born wife, Barbara, opened Le Fou Frog, bringing evocative upscale French cuisine to the very unglamorous industrial zone in the River Market. The low-key exterior camouflages the magic that happens within. Go early and you'll nearly have the place to yourself. As the evening progresses, the rooms fill, the bar crowd thickens and the noise level rises. It's the sound of folks feasting on some of the best food in Kansas City. You can't miss if you try any of Rafael's traditional dishes, including the steak au poivre served with pommes frites, the steamed mussels in white wine cream sauce, the brandade (a silken purée of salt cod and potatoes), and the seared foie gras. Keep plenty of bread on hand, too, to soak up the decadent wine and cream sauce with the mussels. Rafael has a penchant for exotic meats, so don't be surprised to find elk, guinea hen, ostrich and wild boar paired with some equally exotic sauces. The wine list is comprehensive and the bar a great place to sip a cocktail. Finish up your evening with a fine cappuccino or a chilled Muscat. On Sunday nights, you'll be treated to live music, with lots of restaurant industry diners in attendance. Half-priced Thursday and Friday happy hour makes the Frog an ideal launching pad for the weekends.

Starker's Reserve
Rating: 14/20
201 W. 47th St.
Kansas City, MO
Born in rural Kansas on a cattle and wheat ranch, executive chef John McClure has traveled far and wide and come back home. Trained at the Culinary Institute of America in New York, McClure spent two years working in New Orleans under Frank Brigsten and with Michael Smith and Debbie Gold at The American Restaurant and 40 Sardines. His ever-changing menu, which brims with local goods, from Kansas beef to Ozark-area-grown mushrooms, is an amalgam of all those experiences. Feast on seared foie gras with hot beignets and almond and orange relish; he also knows how to do fish, whether he's putting a fine crust on pan-seared halibut or fashioning lump crab cakes. For dessert, ask for Cleo's snickerdoodles, fresh-baked from his grandmother's recipe. One of the most romantic dining spots in Kansas City, Starker’s boasts an exceptional wine list and white-gloved service ratchets up the dining pleasure even more.

Trezo Mare
Rating: 14/20
4105 N. Mulberry Dr.
Kansas City, MO
Trezo Mare is a slang translation meaning treasures of the sea. In executive chef Michael Peterson's gifted hands, those treasures translate into a trove of lovely appetizers and entrées, served raw, wood-grilled, steamed, fried and roasted. Many dishes are meant to be shared. We like the harissa-rubbed salmon served on skewers over curry-glazed mushrooms, and the fruit de mer tagine---a volcano-shaped dish is delivered to the table with flames spewing from the cone. When the waitstaff lifts the conical-shaped lid, the aroma of seafood, garlic, rosemary and thyme perfumes the air. Side dishes are just as seductive and include crab bisque with rich caramel, coffee and butterscotch notes, and feather-light truffle oil and Fontina gnocchi. The wine and cocktail list go beyond the standard buttery Chardonnays and cosmopolitans. Try the Spanish Burgans Albarino and the Don Juan cocktail made with Corazon Blanco and Pama pomegranate liqueur to start.

The Gaf
Rating: 13/20
7122 Wornall Rd.
Kansas City, MO
Molly and Ray Dunlea and her brother, James O'Brien, kept the menu simple and family-friendly when they bought the former Romanelli's Grill space. They renamed it The Gaf, a County Cork term for a beloved meeting place for friends and family. The food is a blend of old-world and new-world (think fish ‘n’ chips, chicken potpie, lamb shank, Buffalo wings and hamburgers). Most everything is made in-house, including a blue cheese dressing with Cashel blue and apple crumble served à la mode. We also like the hand-breaded tenderloin topped with homemade onion rings, applewood-smoked bacon, Irish farmhouse cheddar, fried eggs, Jameson whiskey barbecue sauce, lettuce and tomato. If you need reviving after a pint too many, try the Irish Gut Bomb, a Gaf original.

JP Wine Bar & Coffee Shop
Rating: 13/20
1526 Walnut St.
Kansas City, MO
With names like Cali’s Valley, Bulls on Parade, Get Sideways and Like Butta, customers fall under the spell of co-owner-manager Ryan Maybee’s wine flights. He makes them seasonal---as in World Cup Whites---or silly, as in Air-Port (three ports from Portugal, one from France), but they are always as educational as they are entertaining. He does the same for cheese flights, from Benelux Dairy featuring Chimay Trappiste ala Biere, Wynedale and extra-aged Goudas to Local Flavor with Maytag Blue, Carr Valley Mobay and Vella special select dry Monterey Jack. And then there are lunch deals, small plates, indulgences (try the champagne float), wine cocktails and lots of fine scotches, which can be ordered in flights. Maybee plays hosts to a wine club, whose members get their own wine storage locker and a bottle tucked inside each month.

Rating: 12/20
301 E. 55th St.
Kansas City, MO
Just as Megan and Emmanuel Langlade's family has grown, so too has their neighborhood bistro, with more seating indoors and out and a 50-seat private dining room. They've kept the same traditional dishes---three variations of mussels, crêpes and quiche and steak frites---but added ruby trout meunière, seafood gratinée and cassoulet every weekend. On Monday nights, there are budget-friendly, three-course fixed meals that include an entrée, soup or salad and dessert. For breakfast, look for fresh Belgian waffles.

1 comment:

TheKCGuy said...

Great reviews of some of the local spots. One note, Swizzle is closed.