Kansas City’s traditional,

hickory-smoked barbeque

Barbeque favorites can be

catered or delivered

Dine at any of the three Smokehouse locations

in Gladstone, Kansas City or Overland Park

Private banquet rooms

are also available at each location

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Ragland Road

Ragland Road Irish Pub in the Power and Light district is the most recent place to fall under the spell of what I’m learning is a trend of cuisine confusion. The restaurant is gorgeous to behold, although its sheer size betrays some of the intimacy of a real Irish pub. It has an excellent beer selection and what appears to be a correctly inspired menu until the final result arrives.


I have lamented over the recent gimmicky trend of restaurants to try to dress up food that is better left alone. I ordered fish and chips, a bellweather for Irish food if one ever existed. I received some sort of fish sculpture with a couple of confused sauces and a creative and, frankly, useful chip presentation. If only the fish came the same way.


Fish and chips is a lovable dish from the U.K., one of the few palatable native cuisines of that area of the world (and I am an anglophile, I drive an English car, wear English clothing, and am an intolerable Doctor Who fan). I expect it to be served in a simple yet delicious manner. This complicated thing was lost on me, as it appeared completely out of step wit h the authentic feel of the rest of the place. In addition, despite being pretty, the fish was greasy and tasted flat, as if all the effort was placed on the presentation and not enough on the preparation.
My service was fine, if not rememberable.


Ragland Road Irish Pub is a nice idea. Irish Pubs often are, but if one is going to open one it should be consistent. Ragland Road should give up the frilly presentation and serve honest food, honestly presented.

Blanc

There is a confusing trend in the restaurant world these days: upmarket 'gourmet' prolaterian cuisine. While I am not adverse to food like hamburgers and pizza, the recent attempts to somehow turn these into a special dining experience makes little sense. If one is going to do it, however, pizza can at least be understood, especially since Wolfgang Puck’s experimentation with gourmet pizzas in the 80’s. Even with that the concept is a tricky one to navigate. Pizzabella is a nice execution. California Pizza Kitchen is not.
Apparently this has now morphed into the fad of upscale hamburger joints. To me, the best hamburgers can still be found at places that smell of grease and serve them in paper, in a manner that is completely unpretentious and serves the nature of the food. Recently I attended a team lunch at Blanc in Westport.
Blanc is situated in the location previously filled by Tatsu Arai’s unsuccesful sattelite bistro. Although the name is reputed to be a reverent nod to White Castle, the name Blanc references the paint scheme and d├ęcor more than anything to do with the food.
I am usually gentle with restaurants in their first month of opening. Blanc has been open far longer than a month, and I still receieved ham-handed service from the kitchen. My group all ordered a variety of burgers, and I selected the Kobe burger, because I find that the surest way to test a new place is by trying their flagship item. We ordered, and waited. And waited. When the beverages came around, the fellow sitting across from me received a vanilla milkshake, despite having clearly ordered a chocolate one. A simple error, sure, but when he asked for the correction, we were informed that they were out of chocolate! How can a place be out of chocolate?!
Forty minutes later, all of the plates had been delivered but mine. It was explained to me that mine had accidentally been served to another table and was on its way, but even though I ordered it medium rare I waited an additional ten minutes. Surely this is not the best way to impress a crowd.
Although the service was disappointing, the burger was not. When it finally arrived, it was delicious and juicy. I had also greatly enjoyed the treat of a bottled Dr.Pepper, something rare and difficult to find in Kansas City. I love the stuff, and have even ordered it for delivery online to the tune of $12 a sixpack due to its unavailability in this market. The burger could have been delivered on time in a much less deliberate atmosphere and been just as good.

BLANC:


  • Food: 3 stars. Really the best that can be expected of a burger, and the bottle DP is a godsend.

  • Service: 2 stars. The waitress was kind and extremely apologetic, and my admittedly tardy burger was complimentary, but it is still not an excuse for the confusion in the kitchen and wait station.

  • Atmosphere: 2 stars. Clean but contrived. I wrote a scathing review of Seven because it was all show and no substance. The food was excellent here, but it suffers from the same pretension. Scandanavian architecture and furniture may have its place, but when mixed with burgers, the result is like french fries and green salsa: not quite right.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Azul Latin Bistro

My wife and I recently had dinner at Azul Latin Bistro and loved it. The interior design is remarkably different compared to its exterior. It set a great mood for a great meal. We started off with the chorizo and goat cheese quesadilla and a couple of their signature cocktails. The drinks were a bit strong, but good nonetheless. The quesadilla was fantastic, perfect amount of cheese and chorizo.
Our dinner took about 20 min to get to the table, which was fine considering my wife ordered the chicken and received a bone-in chicken breast cooked perfectly. I had the chile relleno and found it impressive. The black bean puree and ancho chile sauce was a great contrast smoothed out by the cream sauce.
The presentation on all of the dishes was great and each had a good balance. I read on some other posts that the service was sub-par but I have to disagree. We had excellent service, very attentive and the right amount of talkative. Perhaps some of those post were older and they enacted some positive changes since. Our water was never low and drinks never empty. This could be because the place was only half full..on a Saturday night. Which leads to my only qualm with Azul, the lack of patrons affected the atmosphere. When the music changed tracks, the restaurant fell silent. That and the weird graphics flashing on the flat screens. But, there is no reason this should be the case.
This quality of food and prices combined with the new tourism downtown should get this place the business it deserves. We will be back this weekend, do yourself a favor and try it out.