Margarita’s mild, hot and picante salsas

available in your favorite grocery stores and are the official salsas at Kauffman Stadium.

Dine at any of the four Margaritas locations

Downtown on the Boulevard, Lenexa, Gladstone, Liberty or Martin City.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

ROOM 39, MIDTOWN:

When reviewing restaurants, I often find myself becoming something of a curmudgeon. I seem to expect failures, and so they often happen. It is the ultimate fate, I believe, of any critic, to be eternally disappointed. It is this resignation to destiny that makes a surprise so spectacular.
Two Saturdays ago, I received such a surprise at Room39. I had dined there many times before at lunch, and always found it to be a charming little coffee house/bistro, but nothing earth-shattering. If I had any idea what a wonder this place became at night, with white-linen clad tables and low light, I would have dropped everything and come running.
My wife and I had been out to the Auto Show and decided to get something in town, but, with it being a Saturday night, all the usual haunts were booked solid. I knew that Room39 had a dinner menu, so I suggested we stop in. .
All of their tables were booked, but a seat at the bar was kindly suggested. We took it, and found ourselves transported somewhere special. Suddenly the light seemed to dim, the noise faded into the background, and we were there, intimate at the bar, as if we were on vacation in some distant country.
My wife ordered a ‘French martini’, to start, some sort of fruity-flavored girl-drink concoction that I tried and approved. It was nice, and not over-sweet. I ordered a bottle of the Ridge Geyserville Zinfindel blend, an always reliable wine.
The bartender, who is also the manager of the restaurant, was literally perfect. He was present when needed (remarkable in a packed, small restaurant on a Saturday night), but never hovering.
Now on to the food: I started with the chicken livers. My wife ordered the crab cakes.
I hadn’t eaten a chicken liver since I was a child, but I’m fairly certain that these were the best I’d ever had, but the true superlative goes to the crab cakes. My wife grudgingly allowed me a taste, and we agreed that they were, like many things turned out to be that evening, perfect.
Next course consisted of sweetbreads for me and the beef ribeye for the Mrs. I love sweetbreads. They’re nearly impossible to find in Kansas City, and to have been surprised by their presence on an unplanned menu was a boon indeed.
They appeared to have been seared, as they had a delightful little crust, and the sauce was an excellent accompaniment, being dense and almost gravy like in flavor but with a much lighter texture.
The ribeye was also delicious, prepared to proper temperature and served in a traditional red wine preparation. There were these lovely little fried mashed potato thingies as a side dish. Crispy mashed potatoes. What a concept!
Finally, a wonderful crepe fell prey to our voracious appetites.
To really sum up this review, I have to mention that at one point during the dinner, shortly after tasting my sweetbreads for the first time, my eyes actually welled up with tears. I know how hokey that sounds, but it is true.
FOOD: 4 Stars. Cleverly and perfectly prepared.
SERVICE: 4 Stars. EVEN CORRECT CUTLERY SERVICE AT THE BAR! When most restaurants can’t get this right in an empty room on a weeknight, I always had a fresh fork. Now that’s what I call right.
ATMOSPHERE: 4 stars. Transported to a wonderful place is a pretty high assessment, I think.

--John Long

Cafe Des Amis

CAFE DES AMIS

At this time I feel that I need to right a wrong. I have read an unpleasant review of one of my ‘perfect restaurants of Kansas City’ on this blog, and, after further review (by dining there repeatedly), must come to their immediate defense.
Café Des Amis is still a perfect restaurant. My brother and I attended for my birthday, in January, and my wife on the weekend after Valentine’s Day, so I must testify with the following evidence:

Exhibit A: Guillome.
Guillome is the hardest working man in show business, from what I can tell. He’s always there, sometimes cooking, usually serving, mixing drinks, opening wine, a true jack of all trades. Didier has a jewel with this guy, and, let’s face it, he’s the reason why H1B visas were created in the first place. From the H1B visa regulations: “requiring theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge in a field of human endeavor”. Exactly.

Exhibit B:
Food, glorious food! Best Escargot in the world (read my review on the restaurant page for Café Des Amis). Duck braised for 17 hours!

Exhibit C:
France. The place reeks of it, in all its crusty, wonderful, delicious glory. From the old building to the creaky floors to the packed-in tables, I can think of no other place in town that so speaks of Europe to me. Going to Café Des Amis is taking in a bit of the old world without an 8 hour flight.

As an aside, what the hell are you thinking ordering Iced Tea at a French restaurant at dinner? Unless you’re a certified AA alcoholic in recovery, that is crazy-talk. If I had to choose, I’d put you on the pay-no-mind list too, knowing that I stood a better chance of getting a good tip from an experienced, WINE-BUYING diner at another table. Also, what first class restaurant ever includes a salad? The only decent place I can think of that does is Tatsu’s, and it’s as much of an anachronism as the plastic flowers in the dining room (although that salad is magical).
The only thing I’d change about Café Des Amis is that I’d expand the wine list somewhat. But that being said, this is a first-rate place coming from someone who knows first-rate places
--John Long