Thursday, September 16, 2010

Extra Virgin

The wife and I don't get out to dinner often and we get to downtown Kansas City even less frequently. So when we had babysitters (my parents) a reason to get downtown (an after-work function for my wife) we couldn't pass up the opportunity to try one of Kansas City's most talked-about restaurants.

Online magazine The Pitch awarded Extra Virgin the title of best new restaurant in Kansas City for 2009. And chef Michael Smith is a semi-finalist for 2010's "Outstanding Chef" award by the James Beard Foundation.

Tuesday night found the restaurant pretty sparsely populated with 4-5 outside tables occupied as well as a few patrons at the bar. We took an indoor window seat between the bar and the patio. (I've never been a fan of dining al fresco.) Our waiter, Ben, was attentive without being intrusive or overbearing and possessed great knowledge of the menu and wine selection. Ben told us there were 60-odd choices on the menu and he'd let us know if we happened to pick one of the 3 or 4 that he didn't think were up to snuff.

My wife went with three tapas. An outstanding piece pork belly that was seared crispy on the outside and soft as butter on the inside. The chickpea fries garnishing the pork belly were perhaps the hit of the evening. Her empanadas stuffed with Serrano ham and mozzarella cheese were equally stunning. The beet salad with an ancho chile vinaigrette and micro-greens was earthy and tasty.

I let Ben talk me out of chicken thighs stuffed with figs and int an order of sauteed oyster mushrooms. The mushrooms were cooked well, yet slightly bland. I think they would have been better utilized as a garnish for a meat dish. I also ordered a some fantastic ground lamb/mint skewers and a bowl of fried duck gizzards with a very spicy (reminded me of Sriracha) sauce. While the mushrooms were a bit of a letdown, the meal overall was outstanding.

I considered a couple of domestic Syrahs from the reasonably-priced wine list, but in the end we went with the 2005 Two Hands The Bull and the Bear Shiraz Cabernet, Barossa Valley. I was initially a little bit hesitant to go with this as I'm leery of Australian wines that clobber me over the head with new American oak. But Ben told us that the sommelier was "pretty sure" it was aged in French oak. And correct he was. The wine was jet black with notes of tobacco, cassis, mint and toasty French oak. It was particularly good with the empanadas and lamb skewers. Serving wine at cellar temperature from Riedel stemware was a nice touch as well. The wine was regularly priced at $80, but it was marked down to $60 last night.

I would highly recommend this restaurant to anyone looking for excellent good food, a well-trained waitstaff and a restaurant that takes its wine program seriously.

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