Friday, November 14, 2008

Delaware Cafe - Extra Touches

Last night, my wife and I trekked through a downtown crowded with Coldplay enthusiasts and went to the Delaware Cafe, a little west of River Market on a cozy one-way street. I didn't know what to expect - several foodies had told me the place is good, but that was about it. Owen Morris of Fat City had complimented the place, and Owen knows food, so I was enthusiastic but uninformed. Kind of typical for me.

When we arrived, we parked right out front - the best parking a non-disabled person could ask for. So much for downtown parking concerns on an event night - downtown is big enough that a crowd at the Sprint Center doesn't mean that you should avoid restaurants on the other side of downtown.

A sparse crowd clustered around the bar, and we took a place at a table near the bar. It's a pretty space - artwork by local artists on the wall (including our waitress' work), black tables and a good-sized bar. We didn't make it into the larger dining room. The large colorful paintings were a great extra touch - local but sophisticated.

From the Bar Snacks menu, I ordered a serving of the crispy-fired shatto cheese curds with maple, apple butter and chili flakes. I know that's not healthy eating, but when you see something like that on the menu, you have to give it a shot, and they were absolutely worth it. Lightly breaded oozy cheese curds were just as awesome as you might expect, and the sauce on the plate added another dimension to the pleasure.

For my entree, I chose the Red Eye Prime Ribeye. It's a bit unusual for me to order a steak in a good restaurant, because I make damned good steaks at home. This one was unusual enough on the menu, though, promising smoked pepper hash, and over-easy farm egg and a coffee jus, that I had to give it a try. It came out as large, thick slices (chunks) of tasty beef covered with the egg on top of the hash. I was expecting a ribeye steak, or a thick slab of prime rib, and the perfectly prepared medium-rare pieces of beef came as enough of a surprise that I asked if I had really gotten rib-eye - though making certain that she understood it was not a complaint, just a question. Our charming artist/waitress went back and asked, and returned to say that yes, indeed, it was ribeye, but trimmed into thick slices. I still have my doubts, in that the meat, while tender, had a "tighter" texture than I associate with any part of the ribeye, but the food was great, and the tradition of tossing a fried egg on top of things is one that ought to be spread more widely. Yum. The coffee jus was a tiny pitcher of strong coffee with perhaps some balsamic vinegar added. Excellent, and interesting!

My wife got the tawny port braised short ribs, with mac & cheese, rapini, brioche bread crumbs, and natural jus. Damn. Braised short ribs may be the best food ever invented - with just enough structural integrity to hold together until they melt under fork pressure into a web of beef string. These were superb examples, served atop a bed of fusilli mac cheese. The richness of the beef with the gourmeted (new word alert) comfort food of the mac cheese was just perfect.

The only mediocre note of the evening was dessert. We split a graham cracker crusted gooey chocolate cake, with Vietnamese cinnamon marshmallows, smoked vanilla ice cream, and chocolate nibs. The cake itself was a good but not great chocolate cake, the marshmallows were more rubbery than springy, and the ice cream tasted like homemade vanilla ice cream with a few drops of liquid smoke added. It was not bad, but it was a big let-down after a fantastic meal.

The bill, with drinks, came to $100, so this is a special occasion meal. We could have gotten off a lot lighter if we were scrimping, by sticking to the impressive bar food menu and appetizers. I got to taste the chicken wings, which were charred and sticky with a sweet/hot Asian-influenced sauce - tasty and fun. A server gave me the wing after bringing out an extra order for another table - yet another extra touch in a restaurant that makes its customers feel special.

With its cozy and friendly atmosphere, Delaware Cafe deserves to be ranked in the highest echelon of Kansas City restaurants.

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Blogger mamagotcha said...

Next time, ask the chef to come out and chat with you. He's another KC blogger (Joe West, over at, and yes, that's really his picture... I think he turned 12 last week). He's definitely going places.

He's also planning a Chef's Table in the kitchen. You'll get to sample ingredients and see things as they're being created. I can't wait!

11/14/2008 9:48 PM  
Blogger Corinne said...

I was just wondering if wanted a restaurant reviewer -- I've had two bad experiences recently and thought your readers might like to know about them -- and voila, there you are, writing a review!!!

11/15/2008 9:43 AM  
Blogger Owen said...

I'm glad to hear you enjoyed the experience. I try to send as many people as I can down to Delaware (success!) and it will be sad when this town loses Joe. I've said it before and I'll say it again- he's a wunderkind he will have his own show here before too long.

11/15/2008 8:04 PM  
Blogger mamagotcha said...

Owen was prophetic... Delaware Cafe's chef Joe West has been snapped up by a Vegas eaterie.

Oh, well. It was great while it lasted!

11/17/2008 12:43 PM  

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