Posts tagged ‘Leawood’
Many Kansas Citians are familiar with the La Bodega on Southwest Blvd., a longtime Spanish tapas restaurant in midtown. Its owners recently took over the vacated JP Wine Bar space in the 119 Center at 119th and Roe in Leawood, and they have certainly made it their own. The walls are now brightly colored, there’s a fireplace in the trendy bar, tapas plates are piled high on every table and the place is hopping.
On a recent visit for lunch, my group sampled a variety of sandwiches. Not the usual fare for a tapas restaurant, but that concept is better suited for dinnertime conviviality when people are more apt to linger.
The Cubano came highly recommended and was excellent. A long chewy bun was layered with thin slices of pork loin, proscuitto, Manchego cheese, yellow mustard and a pickle. The flavors were wonderful, but I think the sandwich needed more of each ingredient to make it a complete success. The Bocadillo con Entrecote a la Parilla was served on a demi-baguette and was loaded with beef tenderloin, burgundy onions and blue cheese. That combination is on many a menu, but La Bodega does it as well as any restaurant in the city. Smoked salmon lovers will revel in the Bocadillo con Salmon Ahumado, and those who crave Italian muffaletta sandwiches will be very pleased with La Boedga’s Spanish rendition the Serrano, which featured cured serrano ham, Manchego cheese and olive tapenade and tomatoes on a baguette.
Sandwiches are accompanied by a side of French fries (tasty, but they wouldn’t make my top ten), and Judías Verdes a la Vinagreta de Breba, a relatively healthful side dish with green beans, roasted potatoes and figs in a walnut-fig dressing.
A long list of intriguing salads and soups round out the menu, most of which are suitable for vegetarian diners.
Servers are still in the process of being trained. Ours was well-intentioned but didn’t know the difference between a white and rose wine. She made up for that by giving us a fabulous chocolate cake gratis for the birthday girl in our ranks.
Next time? The full tapas experience in the evening.
If you like the Carmen’s Cafe in Brookside, you’ll enjoy its second location in Leawood’s Park Place. Same great food with just a few additions to the original menu.
The decor is fairly dark, but with a big window in the front, a mirrored wall that runs the length of the room, and a separate bar area. It’s certainly roomier than its cramped sister restaurant, though the four top tables don’t leave much room for maneuvering glasses, wine, bread plates, a bread basket and the marvelous bread dipping sauce (more on that below).
But all is forgiven when the food arrives. The house salad, is a classic Italian mix of iceberg lettuce, romaine, pimento, red onion, artichoke and Parmesan, almost identical to the Rich & Charlie salads of my youth in St. Louis. The bread is soft, with sesame seeds on the top. Nothing special on its own, but practically mouth-watering when used as a vehicle to mop up the dipping oil that accompanies it. Though easily duplicated at home, somehow it always tastes better here. Olive oil, red pepper flakes, black pepper, Parmesan and julienned basil sit on a small plate, tempting diners to spoil their appetites. It’s quite hard to resist, and I usually don’t!
The list of pastas is lengthy, there’s something to satisfy every palate. Without or without meat, seafood or no, spicy or tame, shells and strands. A favorite of mine is the Fettucine al Diablo. Pasta is tossed with mussels, scallops, shrimp and calamari, and a spicy tomato sauce for a hearty and incredibly satisfying meal. This time though, I ordered the Paella Valencia, a dish that was a signature of Don Pepe’s when he was in the kitchen at Carmen’s on the Boulevard many years ago. It was obviously popular, as it has remained on the menu despite being a Spanish rather than Italian dish. The paella was as good as it gets this side of the Atlantic Ocean, the aroma of saffron wafting in the air as it’s placed before me. The huge platter of rice also has a healthy dose of mussels, squid, beef, chorizo, shrimp and peas. Like the Fettucine Al Diablo, the portion is enough for two and the waiter isn’t the least bit surprised that I need a doggy-bag.
Spidini is a big seller here. Chicken, beef and shrimp spidini are offered with a variety of sauces, including Marsala wine sauce, alfredo, and lemon caper and amogio. The chicken spidini we tried, atop angel hair pasta with tomato and basil, was flavorful and moist. There is also a large selection of beef, veal and seafood dishes, and all entrees and pastas come with a house salad. Though we didn’t have any appetizers, the stuffed artichoke is consistently a big seller.
The reasonably priced wine list has a mix of Italian and Californian wines, so a little vino with your meal will complete the picture.
Liquor laws in Kansas are still a bit antiquated, so Kansas restaurants can’t offer the traditional Happy Hour specials, but that doesn’t stop them from finding a way to give their customers a good deal. Check out North‘s “mid-day menu from 3-6 p.m. Monday through Friday. All items are $6 or under and include their regular pizzas and salads, even the signature zucca chips.
The restaurant uses these deals to drive traffic–why not oblige? Same great food, no lines.
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.
Tired of steak and potatoes? In a winter rut? Kaiyo, at 119th and Roe, may be located in a non-descript Johnson County strip center, but its food is anything but dull. With fresh and inventive fare and a light, contemporary dining room, owner and chef David Loo, formerly of Sushi House, and wife Karen have created a lovely refuge from the congestion at that intersection. They are warm and hospitable hosts, who will treat you as though you are guests in their home.
Loo’s signature item is the Hot Temptation Roll, but there are plenty of intriguing options on the long and descriptive list of Makimono (rolls). During my latest visit, I tried the Fire Roll and the Cherry Blossom, two newer additions to David’s vast repetoire. Though they may not have dethroned my favorite Caterpillar and Spider Rolls, each was as gorgeous to look at as they were to devour.
David is a busy man. He commutes between his restaurant and Cosentino’s downtown market, where he has a very visible sushi bar, smack in the middle of the store. Patrons can grab a carry-out box to go or eat in. Though the selection is smaller than at the Leawood restaurant, the quality is every bit as exemplary.
Classic Japanese favorites are also offered to satisfy the more squeamish palates, so whether you are a seasoned sushi eater or a novice, put down that T-bone and venture out to Kaiyo for a livelier (and healthier!) meal.