Aixois: 251 E. 55th Street

 Posted by at 10:04 pm
Mar 242008
 

This is a pretty high profile joint, located in the Crestwood shops at 55th and Brookside Blvd. I think that most people who live in KC proper know about Aixois, or have been there a time or two because its reputation is pretty airtight. Well, it’s a well-deserved reputation because even though the clientele and the atmosphere don’t do much for me, I keep going back.

The menu is a nice assortment of classically french entrees, salads, soups, sandwiches and desserts with several contemporary American flavors for good measure. You can get a traditional french meal of mussels and pomme frittes (that’s french fries for you simple folk) which is just about the prefect lunch, assuming you have nowhere to be. It’s nice to linger a while with some company and one more glass of wine than is advisable. I’m also a huge fan of the trout, well-priced at $12 and the steak dishes are always first rate. Because of its Frenchtacular nature, there is always something interesting like frog legs or veal liver for the more adventurous diners. Basically everything I’ve had there has been well-prepared, simple in flavor and nicely presented. They have specials every day to complement the regular menu, so there is a lot of choice.

For lunch there are plenty of less expensive options–a few sandwiches, a couple good salads as well as a soup of the day. The cheese plate pretty much rules. It is not as skimpy as those at other restaurants and never fails to make me slap my palm on the table with delight. Salad and a cheese plate = tasty lunch.

The service borders on over-attentive. The waitstaff really milks the whole fake-friendliness schtick, and the rich brookside geezers eat it up with a spoon. Not my scene but they butt out when they need to. The wine list is extensive and the servers know their stuff. By the glass is not cheap (most glasses are $9 or so) but generally they have a house bottle for $20.

Aixois has 2 dining rooms, one in the front and one in the back. The one in the front has a more intimate feel while the main room is a little noisier. It seems like they seat the old people in the front and the families with kids in the main room. Seriously, Aixois is chock full of old people. But strangely it is also kid-friendly and I always see families in there. Normally I far prefer old people over children, but the front dining room is a little stuffy for my taste. Best of all, there is a sizable outdoor patio that offers a view of sweaty yuppies and old folks puffing along the trolley track trail.

So if you want to reward yourself for a job well-done or whatever and are ready to spend some cash, Aixois is not to be missed. I can attest to the fact that the more you go, the more you like it. And the dude who owns it is actually French which has to count for something.


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Jan 102008
 

RIP

I imagine this place is better for a nice dinner than it is for lunch. But rich people gotta go somewhere right?

Welcome to 40 Sardines a truly beautiful restaurant right in the heart of JoCo’s ridiculousness known as Town Center Plaza. Actually is at the edge of TCP but you know what I mean.

40 Sardines is the kind of place you take a client out for lunch. If only I had clients in my line of work. Or perhaps a birthday lunch for a co-worker, if only I worked close to there. Or perhaps someplace to have a nice bite and a glass of wine after a hard morning having your nails done, shopping for the kids at Vera Bradley, and purchasing a $100 cheese grater for the maid at Williams-Sonoma. That’s the lunchtime vibe here.

Not that the food isn’t delicious.

The lunch menu is pretty small for a typical lunch place, but not for a fancy restaurant. If you are up for a nice lunch, there is plenty to be excited about, like wood-fired burger, crispy short rib sandwich, and the Gala apple, maytag blue cheese, confit chicken & bibb lettuce concoction. A few things, like the ‘Olive oil poached ahi tuna melt panini’ make it seem like they are trying too hard. It’s like they are combining three trendy preparations in the hopes that ones of them sticks. The menu changes periodically–sometimes they have a delicious seared scallop dish that is not to be missed and a decent lettuce wrap plate with vietnamese dipping sauce.

The style of the restaurant gets a little lost, but it seems to lean toward the pan-asian classification. I tend to be suspicious of places that don’t have “specialties,” but generally this chef is good enough to pull it off. You won;t have a bad meal here, but it won;t blow you away. The prices are very good for what you get, everything runs between 8 and 13 bucks, but the portions are not huge. But you’ll live.

The service is the usual 20-something kiss your ass bullshit that you get at nice restaurants. They are clearly trained to make small talk, suggest dishes, wines and so-forth which may appeal to some douche bags but not this one. I have had great service there once, and perfectly efficient but semi-annoying service the other few times.

Though I’m not a big wine-drinker, it’s easy to see why folks are impressed with the wine selection. They offer a number of items by the glass and the bottle, including the unbeatable “20 wines for 20 dollars!” Usually places will have maybe one $20 bottle, but this is pretty sweet. But for lunch? not the biggest draw.

JoCo folks love this place because they feel that finally they have a really good locally owned restaurant to be proud of. No, Applebee’s doesn’t count. For my money, Il Trullo beats the pants off 40 Sardines, but it’s kind of apples and oranges. Anyhow, check it out for a pompous good time and some decent eats. If you are the meat and potatoes kind of person, it’s best to skip it.

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12Baltimore: 12th St and Baltimore

 Posted by at 5:56 pm
Jul 192007
 

This is the lower-rent cousin of the Hotel Phillips’ esteemed Chop House restaurant. 12Baltimore is meant to be a casual bar/lunch/happy hour spot, and succeeds mightily at least in terms of visual appeal. The place is cozy, yet big enough to handle a sizable lunch rush. The dining areas are quite attractive with natural wood paneled columns, tasteful, sparse artwork and nice soaring bar filled with gleaming top shelf liquors. Mmmm, liquors.

The menu itself seemed to offer a small but very appetizing number of options for diverse palettes. Several entree salads, a burger, crabcakes, fish & chips, shaved prime rib sandwich–all sounds like good stuff to me.

Unfortunately, our dining experience was somewhat tarnished by strangely inattentive service, and food that should have been better for the price. I ordered a chopped salad–those of you familiar with the noble classic, cobb salad know what I’m talking about. Basically a cobb for restaurants too cheap to spring for avocado. It featured romaine lettuce topped with chicken, crumbled bacon, blue cheese, hard boiled egg and tomato. Sounds great right? Well it would have been except that the chicken was deep fried. That’s right a breaded and fried chicken breast, sliced expertly and placed upon this otherwise glorious mound. What should have been a very nice meal turned into a glorified Wendy’s salad in a box.

For the second meal this week, I was not offered a refill on my overpriced little glass of coca-cola. And worst of all, we must have waited 20 minutes for our check. I don’t know why it is so hard for people to hand over the bill. true professional waitstaff do not commit this egregious error. Why? Because it gets you in and out quickly, and turn-over is the name of the game when you make a living waiting tables. But this is a problem I;ve run into at a bunch of lunch spots in Kansas City. Don’t they get it? Lunch is about speed, people have to go back to work or school or masturbating or whatever charmed life they lead. Certainly many 12Baltimore diners come from the adjoining Hotel Phillips, and those folks may not have a tight time frame. But I’m sorry, if you serve lunch, don’t make your customers wait for anything. Moreover, if you make your waitstaff wear stupid black business suit uniform-type things, at least train them how to deliver a damn bill in a timely fashion. And when they do, train them to at least acknowledge that they have made you wait.

I wouldn’t rant like this at a smaller restaurant, at least not with such vehemence. But if a restaurant is going to give off airs of being classy, it has to deliver. Experiences like this make me remember why I started blogging here in the first place. Finding good restaurants is fun, but bitching about them is much more satisfying.

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Drum Room: 13th and Baltimore

 Posted by at 2:00 pm
Jul 182007
 

I had never been to the Drum Room and had heard nice things about it. Of course the Drum sign is an absolutely essential selling point, but I found the interior to be surprisingly modern, and completley lacking in old school charm. This was actually fine since the hotel itself offers plenty of that, including a cute archival display of old hotel relics like china, room keys and photos.

Unfortunately, the service during my visit was absolutely abominable. I’m not a bad diner mind you. I typically give every server the benefit of the doubt. I;ve waited tables and I know it sucks. I know what it’s like to be busy. But this shit was ridiculous. No one was rude, just oblivious and uncommunicative. My co-diner and I stood for about 15 minutes before anyone acknowledged that we were waiting for a table. Finally we were sat and given water and the made to wait at least 20 minutes for a server to pay attention to us. I was sucking ice cubes at that point and had changed my mind about what I wanted to order at least 5 times.

The waitress was extremely friendly and apologetic when she finally noticed us, but the offenses continued. After bringing drinks and taking our orders, we never saw her again. I was hoping for a refill on my $2.50 coke in an 8oz glass full of ice, but was never offered one. The food was excellent and reasonably priced for a fancy joint. Sandwiches run from 7-12 bucks. Add in 2.50 for your drink and a small tip for shitty service and there you have it.

I was very disappointed because when I go to a nice place, I am prepared to pay more. But for that money I expect better food and better service. The staff in the Drum Room had no idea what they were doing. A guy across from us got a free meal and an apology from the chef because they screwed something up pretty bad with him. I would have been happier if they completely ignored us so at least I wouldn’t have to pay for such a mediocre experience. But oh well.

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