Mexican Gulf Coast-influenced seafood restaurant Jarocho Pescados y Mariscos (719 Kansas Ave, Kansas City, Kansas) turns one-year-old this week. Proprietor Carlos Falcon has introduced several new items, a sign of how he regularly updates and adds to the menu.
Falcon continues to obtain, prepare and serve fresh seafood and shellfish in ways not easily, if ever, found on restaurant menus in Kansas City. His dishes reflect a style of cooking true to his French-based culinary training, multicultural tastes, and his roots from Veracruz, a Mexican state where the Gulf of Mexico shapes the area’s cuisine and culture.
The fresh seafood and shellfish is sourced from vendors in New York, San Diego, Virginia and coastal Texas and Louisiana that ship by air. Falcon works closely with these vendors to obtain product not normally allotted for restaurants in the Midwest.
A dozen Taylor Bay Scallops are served on a platter layered with ice and lime wedges. Each half-shell bears a morsel of tender, sweet and mildly briny scallop. Falcon asked in advance if it was okay to leave the “lip” of the scallop intact after shucking. Trusting the chef’s recommendation was easy, especially when he asserts that this sliver was equally delicious.
These cultured bay scallops are grown in nets suspended in the pristine waters of Cape Cod Massachusetts. This method keeps the scallops clean, free of sand and readily available for harvesting. The scallop, lip and natural juice is pristine. Whether dressed with a splash of fresh lime juice and a dash of housemade cocktail sauce or eaten unadorned, the scallops inspire a feeling of satisfaction. Much like an amuse-bouche, the dozen delectable bites both delight the senses and spur the appetite for more seafood.
When turned over, the scallop shells reveal various shades of slate black, weathered gray, muted pink and bronze, and rosy red.
Diners can order specific dishes on the menu or choose from the day’s specials. A preferred way to dine at Jarocho is omakase-style, should time and appetite allow and the budget is accommodating. The Japanese term is a nod to Falcon’s wife, who hails from that country, as well as Falcon’s eagerness to please. The phrase loosely means “I’ll leave it to you” and originates from the word makaseru, meaning “to entrust.” In other words, the chef will continue to bring a parade of courses to the table until the guest concedes with hands up that they can ingest no more.
Next, Falcon brings out a plate of langoustines sourced from waters off Argentina. Related to lobsters, these shrimp-like creatures with a light orange-pink shell grow to a maximum length of 10 inches. These portions averaged four to five inches each. Falcon lightly sautes the whole langoustine in a pan to toast the shell. Then he finishes cooking the dish with a lobster broth reduction and succulent bits of onion and garlic. The langoustines are served sliced in half with the shell, head and limbs intact.
Squeamish diners may resort to a fork and knife to pry the sweet and savory flesh from its mortal cage. Falcon confirms that the customary way in Mexico to eat langoustines, much like his shell-on shrimp cucaracha, is to dig in and eat both meat and shell. The texture and crunch may deter less adventurous eaters, but this approach is one way to savor every drop of flavor-filled juice. It’s also not a bad way to add magnesium and calcium to the diet. Falcon advises to suck out and enjoy the tomalley, or lobster liver, leaving nothing to waste except the head.
Boldly moving forward, the next course of oysters on the half-shell is topped with a compound butter laced with sliced chili. The oysters are rapidly broiled just enough to cook the meat until plump. Rich and buttery, this dish is best shared with another person if only to save room for what may appear next. Falcon sneaks in a course of petite lobster tails that have been rubbed in guajillo and ancho chili powder, broiled and served with a drizzle of fragrant white truffle oil.
A final plate arrives with a hefty portion of octopus tentacle in pool of crimson-colored olive oil. Falcon explains that he switched from ordering octopus from the Philippines to a Spanish version. The Filipino product was lighter and lost too much weight once cooked. Although more expensive, Falcon opted to serve the superior Spanish octopus. He brined the tentacle to break down its proteins and then broiled it before adding chili-infused olive oil and a diced cilantro garnish. The meat had just enough firmness to confirm it was prepared to perfection, neither rubbery or mushy in texture.
Taylor Bay scallops, langoustines, and Spanish octopus, oh my. Carlos Falcon knows how to make the most of these fruits of the sea. The range of options on the menu and daily specials can present a challenge to seafood-lovers when making decisions on what to order. Of course, diners ready to eat with gusto can simply entrust their experience to the chef, omakase-style.