Story by Dave Eckert
I think everyone would agree that Kansas City has come a long way in its restaurant and cocktail scene. There are so many talented chefs and mixologists in the metro and so many terrific restaurants and bars. To prove that point, I set out to find some of the most memorable dining and drinking experiences in town. There are way more than I can include in this article, but for my purposes here, I landed on four out-of-this world food and beverage encounters. These are the kind of experiences you don’t have every day, but when you do, oh goodness!
Let’s start with the ten-course tasting menu at the newly reopened Freshwater. Yes, you read that correctly-ten courses! While Chef-owner Calvin Davis has endured plenty to succeed at his gastronomic palace, there appear to be no kinks in Davis’ culinary armor as he seamlessly and deftly guides diners through his ten-course masterpieces. These change nightly depending on product availability and Davis’ whims and desires. “Doing all of these pop-ups and soft openings, I came to realize that I really wanted to do a tasting menu,” Davis told me. “But it wasn’t until we opened the doors that it began to evolve into what it is today. People really love it.”
On the night we dined at Freshwater, the courses began with a charcuterie platter, then weaved their way through smoked trout mousse, eggplant soup, crostini with head cheese and pickled melon rind, roasted chicken, house-made tagliatelle, a Hatfield sirloin steak, and whipped handmade ricotta before finishing with a chocolate terrine. The ten-course meal is just $55 with wine pairings available for another $25, making the dining experience not only among the best in the city, but among the best values you will find anywhere! The soup, chicken, tagliatelle, and steak stood out in my mind, but honestly, it was all sumptuous, and believe it or not, we were full at the end of the meal but not stuffed. Okay, my wife was stuffed, but I was thoroughly sated!
Next, here’s a question for you. Would you pay $1000 for 24 karat gold chicken wings? That’s one of the menu options at The Ainsworth in Leawood’s Park Place. If you know the Kardashians, you probably know Jonathan Cheban, good friend of the Kardashian sisters. “Jonathan Cheban, the self-described ‘Foodgod,’ dines at the Manhattan Ainsworth all the time, and he knows one of the owners. So, they were hanging out one day talking about cool things they could come up with. That conversation led to the creation of our gold chicken wings,” Tricia Elder, Ainsworth’s Event Manager shared.
Priced at $45 for ten wings, $90 for 20, and $1000 for 50 (accompanied by a gold bottle of Ace of Spades Champagne), the wings, their pricing, and their presentation certainly grab your attention. We had the wings, which are brined, baked, deep-fried, then shaken in a chipotle, honey, and gold-infused butter glaze before being sprinkled with 24 karat gold flakes. The wings were both delicious and pricey. Were they worth it? I’ll leave that for you to decide.
It’s certainly easy to run up a hefty tab at the Monarch Cocktail Bar and Lounge, which just celebrated its one year-anniversary as Kansas City’s “go to” bar and lounge. For a truly lavish and intimate experience, you might consider The Parlour, where reservations are required and exclusive parties for up to 16 can be hosted. “Historically, The Parlour was the room in your house for your most esteemed guests and best friends. Ours is stocked with an exclusive cocktail menu, and a collection of vintage and rare spirits that can compliments one-of-a-kind experiences,” the Monarch’s Brock Schulte stated.
The Parlour’s cocktails range in price from $26 on the low end to $39 on the high end, while the Monarch’s cocktails are priced in the mid-teens. Whether you’re imbibing in the main bar or The Parlour, the cocktails are, in a word, delicious! “The goal of the cocktail experience was to have an offering for all types of imbibers. And we accomplished that by modeling our cocktail menu after migrations of butterflies, especially Monarchs, across the globe,” Schulte explained.
Finally, a dining experience that left me wanting more – an Omakase meal with Carlos Falcon at the ethereal Jarocho Pescados y Mariscos. Omakase, which means ‘leave it to the chef’ in Japanese, allows Falcon to flex his culinary muscles and guide you through an amazing experience that builds on aromas, flavors, and textures throughout the evening.
“Omakase, because it’s the chef’s choice, it can be only one course, or it can be multiple courses,” Falcon told me. Falcon’s version of Omakase is a six-course meal. Our meal was stunning, starting with a fresh oyster served with fermented berries Falcon got from Peru. It was followed by perhaps my favorite course of the night, a garlic and herbal preparation of baby sepia cuttlefish. The fish literally melted in my mouth with each bite. There was a scallop dish, a tostada featuring sea urchin, which was right up there with the baby sepia as one of my favorites, conch ceviche, surf and turf with a huge prawn and duck, and finally, a flan for two! Falcon even snuck in some abalone, a rare and delicious treat!
The six-course Omakase meals start at $75 per person but can go as high as your palate and wallet allow, reservations required. I absolutely loved it!
So, there you have it: 16 courses, multiple cocktails, and gold-flaked chicken wings – all adding up to some collective dining and drinking experiences you will not soon forget. I think I’m having a salad tonight!