Kansas City has had its share of restaurant openings and closings of late. In fact, to this observer, it seems the always volatile restaurant industry has become even more so.
With that in mind, I wanted to weigh in on a couple of recent debuts. It’s my hope that these new outlets will become long-running parts of the Kansas City culinary landscape.
The Monarch Cocktail Lounge and Bar has gotten a ton of publicity and exposure, and in my opinion, rightly so. The room at the base of the Polsinelli Building is stunning from the expansive front patio to the butterfly-adorned main bar and lounge area and the exclusive private lounge in the back of the house.
There is quite simply no other place like it in Kansas City, and this sleek and sophisticated space would easily fit into the cocktail landscape in Manhattan, Chicago’s Loop, or San Francisco’s Financial District.
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The fact that David Mancia and his superstar team opened The Monarch in Kansas City is a testament to their vision and Kansas City’s emergence as a world-class dining and cocktail destination.
Much has been said and written about the Monarch’s cocktail creations. They are creative, beautiful, and delicious! But, I’d like to take a moment to comment on Chef Theresia Ota’s culinary offerings, which fall in the following categories: snacks, skewers, caviar service, small plates, and desserts.
I’ve been a fan of Ota’s since her tenure at Jax Fish House and Oyster Bar, the Monarch’s neighbor in the West Plaza, so it’s no surprise I enjoy her menu items at The Monarch.
I haven’t had the chance to try many of Ota’s offerings, but her tonno arrabiatta, a dish of crispy risotto, tuna tartar, lemon, caper and Calabrian chili is a real winner in terms of flavor, texture, and balance.
And, the lobster summer roll served in rice paper with watermelon, avocado, date and a cashew curry dip is a bit hard to handle but worth the effort.
I asked Ota what the challenges are to crafting a menu in such a cocktail-centric environment.
“I knew the food menu had to be a short story following a fairytale of a cocktail list. This is an arena I can really slay because no one loves a great beverage and food more than me,” Ota said. “The food is a flirtation not a long-term relationship. I never want a guest to have to put their cocktail down to enjoy the food. It should be symbiotic.”
There were different challenges for Shaun Brady as he created the food offerings for Brady’s Public House.
Brady's Public House, an Irish restaurant and pub, has opened in what used to be Mike's Tavern. Rich SuggThe Kansas City Star
First, this is Brady’s first step into the world of owning his own place, so the expectations and pressures are higher.
Second, Brady’s takes over the space of the legendary Mike’s, which has been a fixture on the Kansas City bar scene for decades.
Replacing an icon, even one not particularly known for its food is never easy, nor is leaping out on your own. But, Brady says once people taste his food they will be hooked.
“The first thing we want to hear out of people’s mouths when they talk about Brady’s is the food and the drinks,” Brady told me. “That’s why we have an open kitchen and why we’re doing what I’ve been doing for years, which is everything from scratch, using local ingredients, and cooking everything to order. Just staying true to what we do.”
I’ve had Brady’s food a dozen times or more while he was executive chef at the Reserve at the Ambassador Hotel just north of Sprint Center, so I knew his dishes would be good. Still, they exceeded my expectations.
Among my favorites:
▪ The deviled eggs, which come in three flavors: cured salmon, bacon truffle, and spicy chili (the salmon and bacon truffle are my picks).
▪ The Irish sausage rolls, which feature pork sausage stuffed in puff pastry.
▪ The baked rack of lamb, which is herb-crusted and served with mint sauce and Colcannon mashed potatoes.
Oh, and if you’re looking for something to grab for lunch, you cannot go wrong with the Irish whiskey cured salmon BLT. I’ve had smoked and cured salmon the world over, and Brady’s may very well top my list!
Comparing Brady’s and the Monarch is a ridiculous enterprise, but I’d put it this way. The Monarch is the kind of place I’d take out-of-town guests to impress them.
Brady’s is where I’d hang with my wife or buddies on a regular basis. In any event, they are two impressive debuts and two places I hope will be here for a long time!
Dave Eckert is a Kansas City-based food and beverage journalist, a two time Emmy winner, and the producer and host of “Culinary Travels with Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS and cable tv for 11 seasons.