Being located in the middle of the map is not a barrier to eating fresh seafood. Today, Seattle Fish Co., Honolulu Fish Co. and other vendors can cost-effectively source and ship freshwater fish, shellfish and seafood overnight to quality-conscious Midwest restaurants. Kansas City Restaurant Week (January16-25) is an ideal time to test the waters and sample fine seafood prepared by local chefs.
Executive Chef Matt Arnold joined Webster House (1644 Wyandotte Street, Downtown Kansas City) four years ago. He gained an appreciation for sourcing and preparing local artisan food from his mentors Ben and Karen Barker, chefs and owners of Magnolia Grill in Durham, North Carolina. Arnold brings Midwestern sensibility and Southern influences into his cooking.
For KC Restaurant Week, he offers pan-seared blackened diver sea scallops atop Anson Mills cheddar grits, crawfish, greens and Creole sauce. The dish is garnished with bull’s blood beet micro greens from Kansas City-based City Bitty Farm. The dish highlights a treasure of the sea with humble, earthy Southern staples and Low Country cuisine common to Louisiana. He says, “We do a lot of Low Country and Creole-style cooking on the menu at Webster House.”
Chef Arnold uses the technique of blackening to add depth to the flavor profile of the scallops. “I use an even coating of the blackening seasoning, a mixture of 10 to 12 spices,” he says. “Cayenne, smoked paprika, black and white pepper, dried oregano and thyme…”
Jax Fish House (4814 Roanoke Parkway, Country Club Plaza) also features a homestyle Southern dish with refined presentation. Blackened catfish comes with bacon-braised collards, preserved okra, corn bread and crawfish velouté. Velouté (meaning velvet) is one of the five French mother sauces and is traditionally prepared with a light stock thickened by blond roux. The sauce unites the flavors of the fish, greens infused with subtle smoke and sweetness from the bacon, and sweet corn bread.
Pistachio encrusted ruby red trout from Grand Street Cafe (4740 Grand Avenue, East Country Club Plaza) is a colorful entree prepared by Chef Aaron Wells-Morgan. Previously, the chef cooked at Les Bourgeois Blufftop Bistro in Rocheport, Missouri, and Cafe Provence in Kansas City. For a lighter take as a winter meal, the trout is paired with roasted Tuscan potatoes, artichoke hearts, pickled onion, capers, smoked trout and an aromatic whole grain mustard butter sauce.
Bristol Seafood Grill’s (multiple locations) Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes live up to their billing. Loaded with large pieces of crab, these cakes are baked rather than fried, resulting in a savory dish where the freshness of the crab is evident. Each plate comes with a dual serving of mildly spicy creole remoulade and mango tartar sauce with a mound of whipped Yukon gold potatoes and grilled asparagus on the side. The crab cakes make a fine start to a multi-course meal.
Hereford House (multiple locations) features baked Atlantic cod on its lunch menu with fresh herb crust and served with citrus beurre blanc. As another option, the restaurant’s dinner menu offers its signature spiced oven-roasted salmon topped with garlic butter. Flash-fried calamari served with marinara sauce or seafood mushroom caps, stuffed with crab and shrimp in a cream cheese filling, on the dinner menu are additional ways to enjoy a taste of the sea.
La Bodega (multiple locations) serves the aptly named La Trucha, meaning trout in Spanish, with a delicate balance not often found in winter dishes.
La Bodega Leawood’s Chef Nathan Deters, who cooked previously at Pig & Finch and North, says, “I wanted to serve a hearty winter entree that was still light, healthy and doesn’t sit on your stomach afterward. Rather than cream sauce, I use a lemon-butter pan sauce with garlic.”
Crispy pan-roasted trout (sans bones) arrives on a bed of caramelized Brussels sprouts and bacon lardon hash. The bacon and sprouts provide smoky and sweet flavor with firm texture that contrasts with tender, flaky trout. A generous portion of pan sauce unites the elements of the entree. Micro-arugula sprouts add a subtle pop of peppery herb. Trout, bacon, lemon, garlic? Yes, all around.
Take a break from the local and regional bounty normally found in land-locked Kansas City. KC Restaurant Week serves up affordable deals that enable diners to explore fresh seafood prepared by talented chefs. At the same time, each meal ordered raises funds for several worthy organizations.
This year, three new charitable partners will be beneficiaries of 2015 Kansas City Restaurant Week. Donations raised during the 2015 event will benefit BoysGrow, Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired and Cultivate Kansas City. The Kansas City Regional Destination Development Foundation and the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association Education Foundation, will again receive a portion of the donations, as well.
Kansas City Restaurant Week is sponsoring a series of posts about the menus and food of restaurant week, which runs from January 16 through January 25, 2015. For the first post, Pete Dulin sat down with KC Hopps’ executive chef Ryan Sneed to learn more about how he approaches prepping a menu for restaurant week. In previous weeks, we posted the Sweet-Talkers guide and Heat-Seekers Guide to KCRW dishes. The Recommended Daily is a Silver Sponsor of KCRW.[Images via Pete Dulin, Jax photo courtesy of Jax]