Monday, December 8, 2008

A Review of Zest

A new place place opened up this month in Leawood in Mission Farms and it is called Zest. It is on Mission just north of 435 in the same development as Blue Koi and Room 39.

This place is really beautiful. One of the partners is Joe DiGiovanni former proprietor of Joe D's in Brookside but this won't remind you of his old place much at all. While his old place has character and charm Zest is splashy, a place to be scene. This is one beautifully built out restaurant. They also have an impressively large bar and several different seating areas from private alcoves to high tables and couches to regular old bar stools with a couple tastefully positioned large flat screens so we could keep tabs on OU beating MU like a red headed step child. They are prominent but because of the high ceilings they don't dominate the space. We didn't have a reservation and we were on a 45 minute wait that was really about an hour but we were able to find a space at the bar and the time seemed to go by fast. I'd highly recommend a reservation for a weekend night.

As my mom has always told me......looks aren't everything....I just think she was trying to keep me humble :-) but this place has looks of Jennifer Aniston,the substance Laura Ingraham, and the sensibilities of Sarah Palin. This is like the girl in school who looked great and could sink a jumpshot as well a pitch a no hitter drove the red RX7 and was nice and sweet as could be... The food was as good as the atmosphere. Our group had a variety of dishes so I think I can give you a pretty good feel for it.

There are basically 2 steaks on the menu: a ribeye and a filet. The 8 oz. filet was really quite good and the 12 oz. Ribeye was not quite as great but not offensive. The preparations were fine I just think they aren't sourcing as good of meat for the Ribeye which to me is pretty much everything. The meatloaf was part comfort food and part flavor explosion creativity. It exploded with umani -the savory flavor- as it was packed with umani rich ingredients. I think it had veal, beef, sausage, mushroom gravy and some goat cheese mashed potatoes on the side that were great as well. They are reasonable in requesting menu variations as well. One of our dining companions just ordered a custom salad and couple crab cakes. The cakes looked to have very little filler and she said she loved them. We had calamari as well as the spinach, artichoke and gouda cheese app and both were fine. I didn't see much in the way of creativity on the app menu but all the regulars were represented.

Speaking of the overall menu it isn't huge which is kinda refreshing. It is also has a good dose of comfort food variations that will be great to try. A good example is the custom truffle gouda mac and cheese with ham that looks great. I also went for lunch earlier in the week and it is a different menu with nice offerings like a Cuban sandwich as well as something as simple as a 1/4 pound hotdog that looked great but I digress. I saw a Fred Flinstone looking pork shank dish come out that looked incredible. You will find something you like either for lunch or dinner. We didn't try desserts and we didn't really see any come out but they sport an extensive offering.

The servers use these high tech "palm" type computers to submit your order and the even swipe your credit card right at the table and then they return with a check presenter for you to sign. It is a nice touch in these days when you don't like to let your credit card out of your sight. Speaking of the bill, it was actually incredibly reasonable.

The wine list DID remind me of the old Joe D's in terms of the format. They cram quite a few wines on there and write non technical one line descriptions that are fun but also give you an idea of why they picked it and give you confidence they thought about it instead of just grabbing the Spectator Top 100 list. Pricing was premium along with the selections. They have a little sparkler there by the glass that is a nice way to start the night called Bouvet from the Loire Valley. This isn't the Rose version that is famous at JJ's but the white step-brother. Very nice and not at stratospheric Champagne prices. They also have a beautiful bar with a nice cocktail list as well. They have a neat glass wine cellar that is a strong visual pull at the end of the bar.

There were few negatives to even mention. The staff is still getting their sea legs which is reasonable to expect but it was much much better than other openings I've seen. Our bartender began with a slightly condescending tone when he thought (incorrectly) that someone in our group wanted to order a Mudslide but they were asking for Bud Select (which they didn't have) The way he rolled his eyes along with the accompanying look made me understand how people in Wyandotte County must feel when they head to the Plaza to view and dream of buying a Thomas Kincaide picture. Maybe I should stop pointing and laughing at them?

This isn't a James Beard award winning restaurant. It is a really well designed place with really good food and will be a place to be seen. It is loud but it has a good feel and energy to it. Leawood blue hairs won't get it or like it because it is too loud. Clearly, I recommend it and think it is a winner if they can stay busy enough to pay for all that build out cost. Congratulations to Zest! Recession....what recession?

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