Cafe Roux in Leawood’s Park Place has only been open a month, so perhaps I should have given it more time before venturing in. First impressions are lasting though, and mine was not a positive one.
OK, first the good. The gumbo was rich and flavorful with a nice kick to it. The crawfish etouffee had plenty of crawfish and, though the sauce was a bit peppery, it was still enjoyable. However, the rice that was served with it was overdone or had sat too long, so some bites had a distinct crunch that was annoying. The roasted flounder with black-eyed peas was decent, but certainly didn’t excite my senses.
So much for the good. The redfish with sweet corn maque choux and chile verde sauce sounded like one of the most creative options on the menu so we ordered it, despite hearing from someone who had eaten there the previous night that it was “fishy”. He was right, and we knew it as soon as it was set down on the table, before even taking a bite. The fish sat on what was called dirty rice, but bore no resemblance to the delightful dish by the same name I have had in New Orleans. The fried green tomatoes on the salad were better than some I’ve had in town, but a little heavy on the coating. And the crab ravigote, which the server raved about, had a healthy amount of good quality crabmeat, but was quite bland.
The staff did not appear to be properly trained. Our server couldn’t answer fairly basic questions about the menu.While well-meaning and attentive, he had to go back into the kitchen at least three times when he was taking our order. First to check on the night’s soup selections and twice to ask what ingredients were in certain dishes. Curiously, the menu only listed wines by the glass, but our server said we could order any of those wines by the bottle as well.We had no idea how much the bottle of wine we ordered cost until the bill came, but it was less than 4 times the glass price, so it turned out to be a good deal. Finally, though we sat down at 6:30, they were out of bread before our entrees had been brought to the table. Yes, that happens at the best of restaurants on occasion, but in this case it was the final nail, so to speak.
I had read that the atmosphere was very cool–dark with beautiful natural materials. They did turn down the lights about 8:30, but until then it felt more like a glorified coffee shop. Families would certainly be comfortable here though, as the menu offers sandwiches and salads, as well as a kids’ menu, in addition to complete entrees.
I hesitated to be so negative in this post, but I do hope it effects positive change in the kitchen. Cafe Roux is reasonably priced and well-located, it certainly has the potential to be successful. But running a restaurant is a tough business with little time to get it right–hopefully it will get its act together in short order.
Creole restaurants have had a tough go of it in Kansas City. Some have suggested it’s because we Midwesterners don’t appreciate that style of cooking. My guess is that if a restaurant from New Orleans was uprooted and landed in the middle of Kansas City, it would be a veritable goldmine. People are starving for good Creole cuisine, and with the exception of some worthy New Orleanian dishes on Starker’s menu, we just haven’t experienced it yet.