Around the BLOCK

Domo

Written By: Mary Bloch - Apr• 21•14

Domo in Brookside is one of those places I always forget about despite its close proximity to my home. More often than not when I think sushi, I think Kaiyo or RA Sushi, both of which are in Leawood. But I recently went to Domo for lunch and was pleased I did.Domo

I’ve been to Domo several times, but it had been a while. I recall having always had a good meal there, but it is rare for me to not be happy with whatever sushi I order wherever I am–unless of course the fish itself is off.

Fortunately, I went with a friend who eats a lot of sushi and is more discerning than I. She’s the one who turned me on to Kaiyo years ago, and we both think it’s the best sushi restaurant in town. So I knew I could count on her expert opinion.DomoSexy Mama--Domo

We ordered a house salad with miso dressing, seaweed salad, and three sushi rolls, including the beautiful Sexy Mama.

My friend agreed with my assessment that the presentation was spot on and each roll was fresh and creative.

Nice to have good sushi in my hood.

Domo Sushi & Grill on Urbanspoon

China Poblano–Las Vegas

Written By: Mary Bloch - Apr• 14•14

Jose Andrés is to food and restaurants what Peyton Manning is to quarterbacks and football. He is revered in his industry and everyone tries to emulate him.

And it’s no wonder. Andrés has built a growing empire of restaurants from coast to coast and beyond. He started with Jaleo years ago, a Spanish tapas restaurant in D.C. and moved on to Zaytinya, Cafe Atlantico, America Eats,  Oyamel, and minibar, also in DC.  Jaleo has been replicated in other cities,  minibar has entered the Vegas market under the name of é by José Andrés, and he recently expanded his reach to Puerto Rico.China Poblano

I’ve eaten at most of Andrés’ DC restaurants, but I was very interested to try China Poblano, his newest concept that recently opened in Las Vegas. I had read quite a bit about it  and was delighted that we were headed to Nevada so I could check it out for myself. It sounded like fusion, but once we stepped inside, we found that it’s really two restaurants in one, with two separate menus, two separate chefs and two kitchens. Diners can order off either or both menus, and build a fun and delicious meal…which is exactly what we did:China Poblano

When Pigs Fly 4pc delicate steamed
buns/Chinese barbeque pork;steamed pork buns--China Poblano

Tacos–Langosta lobster/salsa Mexicana/ arbol chile sauce and Lengua beef tongue/salsa pasilla;Tacos--China Poblano

Dan Dan Mian hand-cut wheat noodles/spicy pork sauce/peanuts;Dan Dan noodles--China Poblano

Tuna Ceviche tuna/amaranth seeds/
soy sauce/pecans;Tuna ceviche--China Poblano

Twenty-Vegetable Fried Rice with fresh vegetables/fried rice. Delicious, but probably not worth the extensive online raves it had received;Twenty vegetable fried rice_China Poblano

Col de Bruselas– caramelized Brussels sprouts/arbol salsa/chiltate;Brussels sprouts--China Poblano

Salt and Pepper Tofu–crispy tofu with shallot/garlic/fresno chile. It was the one dish our server raved about that I didn’t love.Salt and Pepper tofu--China Poblano

China Poblano is one of a vast number of restaurants in Las Vegas where you can eat very creative food without it costing an arm and a leg.  And the list seems to be growing all the time as big name chefs develop more casual eateries up and down the strip. 

China Poblano on Urbanspoon

The Bite

Written By: Mary Bloch - Apr• 07•14

Taking their cue from West Coast restaurants that have been serving Asian fusion sandwiches (ever heard of Roy Choi and his Kogi Korean tacos?), owners Bryan Merker,  Brian Thorne, and Carlos Mortera have started a little sandwich shop in the City Market. Open just a month, they will be ready for primetime when the Farmer’s Market opens and they get increased traffic from passers-by.The BiteThe Bite

My friend and I made a special trip to sample the unique and creative sandwiches. Build-you-own tamales are also on the menu, but we chose to split two sandwiches instead.The Bite

The Señor Chang has Slow Roasted Beef Short Rib – cilantro – queso fresco – pickled onions – candied – jalapeńos – sriracha crema, and the Kicking Chicken is filled with Braised Chicken – Korean BBQ Sauce – Queso Fresco – Radish – Cucumber – Pickled Onions – Sriracha Crema.Kickin Chicken--The Bite

The Kicking Chicken was a bit bland considering it was topped with Korean BBQ sauce, but it had a nice flavor. I really enjoyed the Senor Chang–it reminded me a bit of the Korean tacos from the now-defunct Westport Street Fare truck that Aaron Confessori used to run and I loved.

We also shared a side of delicious Sesame Slaw with Red Cabbage – Red Onions – Sesame Seeds – Cilantro – Sesame Vinaigrette, and used some of it to add  crunch to the chicken sandwich. It also provided additional filling, which was the one thing these sandwiches needed more of. My friend and I both thought the sandwiches were a bit skimpy on ingredients; had we not been sharing I would have piled the meat onto one side of the sandwich. The good news is that the roll was fresh, soft and chewy, so I had no problem eating the whole thing.Sesame slaw--The Bite

We sampled one of the Abuelita Chocolate Chip cookies, which had a touch of cinnamon and chile powder in it and was quite good. Other choices include a bourbon bacon chocolate chip and a  white Jalapeño chocolate chip. They also serve up homemade ice cream sandwiches.Abuelita chocolate chip cookie--The Bite

 I counted six totally vegetarian items on the menu, all of which were quite innovative, so it’s clear they aim to please. And it’s quick. Order at the counter and expect them to call your name within 5 minutes.

The Bite is a welcome addition to the neighborhood, and will expand the local color and flair of City Market.The Bite

The Bite on Urbanspoon

Fat Choy–Las Vegas

Written By: Mary Bloch - Mar• 31•14

Fat Choy’s slogan is “where Classic American diner meets Asian comfort food,” and it’s very apt. Situated off-strip in a very drab and unimpressive casino, Fat Choy has won more awards and received more accolades in one year’s time than most restaurants can ever hope to achieve.Fat Choy--Las Vegas

Having read numerous articles on the restaurant, and knowing my two companions are extreme Asian food lovers, it seemed like a no-brainer to give it a try. Since it’s off the strip, you need to take a cab or rent a car, and since we were renting one anyway to go play golf, we stopped on our way to the course for “brunch”.

The restaurant does offer a Sunday breakfast/brunch menu, but we opted for the all-day menu which features all of their special dishes, including pork and chive pot stickers and bao, for which Chef Su first garnered attention when he served them out of a food truck.Peking Duck Bao--Fat ChoyTofu bao--Fat Choy

The buns come with a choice of pork belly, duck or tofu; we opted for the latter two and they were perfection. They were every bit as good as those I’ve lusted after at Momofuku in New York City.

We hit the jackpot (this was Vegas after all) with the pot stickers as well. Our server said they are highly touted and very popular, so how could we pass them up with a recommendation like that?Pork and chive pot stickers--Fat Choy

Won ton soup comes with 4 light and delicious shrimp and pork dumplings and, unlike many soups of this nature, it was not too salty.

The duck rice was very unusual and incredibly tasty. I had envisioned duck confit mixed with fried rice, but instead what came to the table was a mound of perfectly cooked rice with a duck leg on top. A garlic and ginger sauce graced the meat, and a side salad with cucumbers completed the plate. There’s also a short rib rice that sports several short ribs atop the rice, but we were very happy with the duck. I picked up the bone so as not to miss a bite of the tender and moist meat.IMG_0656

Our server was from Minnesota and represented her state well: she was friendly and engaging and added to our enjoyment of the meal. She suggested we come back for dinner and try the Fat Choy burger with beef, short rib, bacon and cheddar cheese. Though it sounded like a heart attack on a plate, we were tempted!

I realize this joint is off the beaten path, but that’s part of the appeal. Even with the cost of a cab, it will still be one of your cheapest meals in Vegas!


Fat Choy--Las Vegas

Fat Choy on Urbanspoon

Port Fonda/Maza Azul Collaboration Dinner

Written By: Mary Bloch - Mar• 24•14

Patrick Ryan of Port Fonda and Jonathan Zaragoza of Masa Azul in Chicago recently teamed up to prepare a goat and mezcal dinner at Port Fonda.

And what a dinner it was. Each course was an adventure in itself, made more so because we got a little education about  mezcal.  Beforehand I didn’t even know the difference between mezcal and tequila; now at least I have a working knowledge of mezcal…including the fact that crema de mezcal doesn’t have cream in it!

Here’s the menu:Aguachile

Aguachile– camarones y chicharron, with del maguey vida;

Sopes– goat carnitas, frijoles charros, salsa cacahuate, with del maguey san luis de rio azul;Sopes with goat carnitas

Ensalada Port Fonda– frisee, bacon, fried tripe, poached egg, honey-pasilla dressing, with a mezcal shandy made with Boulevard Tank 7;Mezcal shandyIMG_0589Pork belly with pineapple butter

   Al pastor– pork belly, grilled bread, pineapple butter, with pua lina, del maguey vida;

Birria estilo la barca–roasted goat, ancho mole, tomato consome, tortillas a mano, with a negroni that had been made with del maguey chichicapa;Roasted goat with ancho mole and handmade tortillasMezcal negroni

Ahogada–mexican wedding cookie semifreddo, christopher elbow spiced chocolate, del maguey creama de mezcal;Semifreddo with spiced chocolate and mezcal

The six courses were perfectly sized–not too little, not so much that we waddled out the door at the end of the evening. But that’s not to say I didn’t want seconds of everything! I’d be very happy if all of the dishes found their way on to the Port Fonda menu, especially the pork belly (awesome sauce) and the roasted goat with ancho mole. The semifreddo with Christopher Elbow spiced chocolate would be a good spoon-licking addition, too.

$65 for all six courses and the drink pairings. As much as I love the standard Port Fonda menu, this was a fun change of pace, one which I hope Patrick repeats with another chef and another concept.

 

Kansas Town

Written By: Mary Bloch - Mar• 10•14

There had already been a lot of buzz around Kansas Town when we walked in the door with friends a couple of weeks ago. So I was a bit surprised to find that we were the only diners. Though others filtered in during the course of the evening, after our dinner there it’s surprising to me that it’s not packed every night.Kansas Town

It occupies the space where Macaluso’s restaurant sat for decades, a corner that has seen many a restaurant come and go since it closed. Owner Mike Bechtel, who has no prior restaurant experience, is a congenial guy who was more than happy to answer our endless flow of questions after he seated us. He explained that the restaurant’s name came from what Kansas City was called when our city was founded, and is a nod to the area’s history. Federal Reserve Bank chef and Uberdine pop-up owner Joe Shirley consulted on the menu and found Chef Garrett Kaspar to man the kitchen on a nightly basis. Judging from the quality and artistry of each dish, it’s clear that Kaspar is one talented guy.Kansas Town

The chef started us off with a personally delivered amuse-bouche, frozen tuna sashimi with wasabi crystals surrounded by dots of kimchee puree. Tuna amuse bouche--Kansas TownHe instructed us to let the tuna melt on our tongues before chewing, which was an interesting and unique sensation. We order two appetizers for the table. The first was a beet tarte tatin; gorgeous layers of beets with crispy kale chards, sour cream, and buttons of carrots. The other was the flatbread of the day, a riff on banh mi with chicken liver pate, braised pork and veggies. The flatbread itself was a bit doughy, but was otherwise a successful creation.Beet Tarte Tatin--Kansas TownBanh Mi flatbread--Kansas Town

The menu is not well-organized. It’s just a list of all the dishes that can be ordered, without a break to delineate between apps, main courses and desserts. I originally thought the best way to decipher it was by looking at the prices, but the squid I ordered was considered an entree despite the fact that it wasn’t appreciably more expensive than most of the appetizers. In the end I just went with what the server told us, which is not very efficient. I very much enjoyed my squid which was prepared sous vide, and served over white grits, tomato, chorizo and kale, but it was a rather small portion compared to the other dishes that came to the table. My husband had pappardelle with braised pork and tomato sauce, which was hearty and delicious, especially because the pasta was house made. The risotto with red wine and mushrooms was also a hit, as was the trout, which was served over a winter vegetable salad of primarily roasted root vegetables.Squid with chorizo and kale over grits--Kansas TownPappardelle with Braised Pork--Kansas TownRed wine and mushroom risotto--Kansas TownTrout over Winter Vegetable Salad==Kansas Town

Of the four dishes, the first four were $13 or under, and the trout was $17. There’s currently a beef checks and quinoa dish on the menu at $20, but that’s the most expensive entrée. I’ve read that the restaurant is overpriced, a comment I don’t understand given the quality and nature of each dish. Kaspar sensed our interest in the food (and saw that I was taking photos), and sent out a dessert that he said he whipped up for us that was not on the menu, a coffee cheese cake of sorts that we had no trouble demolishing.Coffee Cheesecake--Kansas Town

I think there’s somewhat of a disconnect between the decor and the artistry of the dishes coming out of the kitchen, but it’s a very congenial spot. It’s not a place to linger however, as the wooden chairs get a bit hard after a time. My biggest concern is the service which, while well-meaning and ernest, needs to be polished. A full-on training needs to take place to do justice to the chef’s efforts. If the service issues are addressed, Kansas Town has major potential, and could finally be the restaurant that exorcises Macaluso’s ghost.

Kansas Town on Urbanspoon

The Farmhouse Revisited

Written By: Mary Bloch - Feb• 24•14

I’ve always been a fan of Chef Michael Foust, owner of the Farmhouse. He’s involved in the community and always strives to support local farmers. After an outstanding dinner there last month, it occurred to me that I had not weighed in on the Farmhouse since it started serving dinner several years ago.The Farmhouse

We were there during Restaurant Week and, though the Farmhouse didn’t participate in the event, the restaurant was packed. I typically prefer to be in the front room where the bar is because of its charm and coziness. But we were a table of 8 and the bigger room was more conducive to the size of our group. Though it too has brick walls and old wood floors, I used to think it was void of character. Perhaps it was because every table was full, or maybe it was the paintings gracing the walls, but I certainly enjoyed sitting there that evening.

The blackboards in both rooms list the night’s specials, as well as the farmers who contribute ingredients to the menu. The night we were there I was happy to see a Brussels sprouts special with roasted root vegetables and blue cheese. It was hearty, healthy and delicious. My husband started with a vegan chili that he loved.

I moved onto the chicken and sausage gumbo served over a big portion of rice which really satisfied on such a cold night. It had a nice kick but I added more hot sauce to get the desired heat.Chicken and Okra Gumbo--The Farmhouse Roasted Brussels sprouts--The Farmhouse

Some at the table ordered and were delighted with the hangar steak topped with a blue cheese butter and salsa verde and served with awesome French fries, while others enjoyed  a potato crusted salmon with deviled aioli and charred Brussels sprouts.Potato crusted salmon--The Farmhouse

Desserts included a Jude’s rum cake with ice cream and bread pudding, both of which filled the belly.

Going to the Farmhouse is like putting on one of your favorite old sweaters; it’s not fancy but it sure feels good.Jude's rum cakes--The Farmhouse

 

BRGR in the Power and Light District

Written By: Mary Bloch - Feb• 10•14

BRGRBRGR, one of the Bread & Butter Concept restaurants, just opened a second location downtown. Their first, in Corinth, has been successful since the day it opened. The new one, in the Cordish-owned Power and Light District, is one of the few independently owned retail establishments in the mix.BRGR

The new space is gorgeous, and just what you’d envision when creating a burger joint that appeals to sports fans. Flat screen TVs abound, but there are booths and tables in the dining room where those who don’t want to take in a game aren’t forced to. Like the original, this has a warehouse motif, with lots of wood and metal throughout the vast space.

The menu is similar to the BRGR in Corinth and focuses on burgers and sandwiches, with a few tacos, pork shoulder and BBQ shrimp thrown in for good measure. (Bread and Butter also owns Taco Republic, Gram & Dun and Urban Table.)Salmon sandwich--BRGR

I had the salmon “Not-So-Burger”, a blackened filet sandwich with chipotle aioli and onion marmalade. I asked them to top it with some spicy slaw instead of the mixed greens that were listed, and I had a winner. The salmon was cooked to order and I enjoyed every bite. My husband had the veggie burger, which is made with lentils, black beans and beets. I always enjoy it, but I wouldn’t rank it as high as the veggie burgers at Blanc or the Burger Stand in Lawrence, but it’s certainly a nice alternative to their many beef offerings.P1020315P1020318

We shared fries, which come with a multitude of homemade sauces, and Brussel sprouts, both of which we had no trouble polishing off.Brussels Sprouts--BRGR

We sat at the bar and enjoyed talking to the bartender, who provided good service in addition to good conversation. The only disappointment of the evening was that the restaurant was not very busy. There wasn’t a concert or sporting event at the Sprint Center, nor was there a convention in town, all of which usually drive traffic to their door. I’ve heard comments about it being a bit pricey, but remember that they have to pay the rent. I  hope Kansas Citians will appreciate the risk the Gaylins, owners of the Bread & Butter Concepts, made in opening downtown among the big boys in the District. This is just the type of restaurant the P&L District needs, and I hope it gets the support it needs to stick around.BRGR Power and Light

BRGR Kitchen + Bar on Urbanspoon

What culinary adventures will you go on in 2014?

Written By: Mary Bloch - Feb• 03•14

Powell Garden Barn dinner seriesCheck out my list on the Kansas City Visitors and Convention Bureau’s website and take your pick:

http://visitkc.com/where-to-eat/culinary-adventures-in-kc/index.aspx Green Dirt Farm dinnerPig & Peay dinnerMichael Smith wine dinner

First Taste: 801 Fish

Written By: Mary Bloch - Jan• 27•14

801 Fish in Park Place is the newest addition to the 801 Restaurant Group.  Rather than the heavy and more traditional steakhouse feel of 801 Chophouse, 801 Fish is decked out in a light and contemporary nautical theme. Very expensive, but with a dock to door  in 24 hours motto so everything is as fresh as can be. Accordingly, the menu changes daily depending on what the chef can get in.the Bar at 801 Fish

We began the evening by sharing a shrimp cocktail containing four massive shrimp and  an excellent spicy cocktail sauce. The shrimp were succulent and tasted as fresh as the water from which they came.P1020326

Entrees range from roasted lobster and scallops to cioppino and surf and turf.Squid Salad

I started with a nice but unexciting squid salad with white beans and arugula and then moved on to grilled octopus. Though the dressing needed more oomph, the octopus was tender and properly prepared so it didn’t suffer from the rubbery texture that deter many people from ordering this mollusk.

Octopus--801 FishP1020329

The beet salad was beautifully presented and a nice light starter.

My husband enjoyed his seared tuna with soba noodles in dashi broth, a preparation that was more creative than one would typically find in a traditional fish house. He also tried the gnocchi with tomato sauce, choosing this side dish as his appetizer. They were light and airy, suggesting that Chef Alex Shifman’s expertise goes beyond fish prep.

Gnocchi--801 FishP1020333

The other couple with whom we dined each ordered the Roasted Branzino, a whole fish that was deboned by the server, and large enough to be shared. The bass was light and flakey and fortunately came with a side since it was one of the most expensive dishes on the menu.

Service was attentive, though they did forget our order of Brussel Sprouts until we brought it to their attention. When we opted not to place another order, we were offered a free dessert instead. Though we declined, it was an appropriate and appreciated gesture.P1020325

801 Fish is definitely not conducive for a casual meal. Though one could easily sit at the beautiful bar and quaff a glass of wine and slurp down some oysters, a full meal here requires big bucks, corporate expense account preferred, similar to its sister restaurant 801 Chophouse. But Jimmy Lynch, who also owns Pig and Finch, knows how to operate a restaurant, so I suspect we’ll see a second location of 801 Fish somewhere else in the city before too long.810 FishSeafood bar--801 Fish

801 Fish on Urbanspoon