Bluestem, KC - Chef Rec
MIssouri Chef's Share their Favorite Kitchens
by Rebecca Layne
We asked top chef's from all over the state: When you take time off from your kitchen, where do you like to eat? We chose these chefs based on awards they have received, exceptional fan reviews, web site and city magazine rankings, and good, old-fashioned work of mouth. The variety of styles, restaurant motifs, and cuisine that the chef's recommended are sure to satisfy everyone's food fetishes.
OSAKA JAPANESE RESTAURANT, 120 East Nifong Boulevard #A, 573-875-8588
Recommended by Chef Brian James. Brian, chef at Hemingway’s Wine and Bistro at Columbia, is no novice to the cooking game—he has more than twenty years of culinary experience under his belt from cooking in the Boston and Chicago areas. He owned and operated a family restaurant at Columbia for five years before heading to Hemingway’s. Established more than twelve years ago by Zhil Rong, Osaka offers a hibachi grill and open tables for sushi lovers. Zhil chose Columbia because he liked the city and wanted to introduce a Japanese restaurant to add variety to the dining scene. His authentic, fresh Japanese cuisine and extensive sushi bar keep diners coming back to Osaka for more.
WHAT TO ORDER: Brian says he often orders the crazy roll, which consists of tuna and fried shrimp. Brian also recommends the eel, snapper, and cod liver, which he says are always fresh.
Q’S CHINESE RESTAURANT, 4004 Peach Court, 573-442-5342, www.qs-chinese.biz
Recommended by Chef Daniel Pliska. Daniel is the chef at MU University Club at Columbia where he has cooked since 1998. Before MU, Daniel cooked for more than thirty years in first-class hotels in Washington D.C.; Dusseldorf, Germany; and New Orleans. Daniel has won ten awards and medals for cooking and pastry while a member of Club Corporation of America and the American Culinary Federation. Q’s offers a relaxing and unpretentious environment and a friendly staff. With white tablecloths and reasonable prices, it’s an upscale restaurant for everyone. Healthy platters such as shrimp and tofu bullion, steamed vegetables, snow peas and mushrooms, and chicken with four sauces enhance the menu, which also includes traditional Chinese dishes.
WHAT TO ORDER: “I usually order the crispy duck with black pea sauce,” Daniel says. “It’s a sliced, boneless duck with spicy sauce. The duck is just great.”
BLUESTEM, 900 Westport Road, 816-561-1101, www.bluestemkc.com
Recommended by Chef Rob Dalzell. Rob grew up in Missouri and has cooked in Scottsdale, Arizona; Santa Barbara, California; and the Napa Valley. His restaurant, 1924 Main, was chosen by the web site Where the Locals Eat as one of the top 100 places to eat in Kansas City. Bluestem offers diners a casual, elegant setting with delicious progressive American cuisine that changes with the seasons. The small restaurant serves artistic entrees with an assortment of meats: shrimp, mussels, duck, chicken, caviar, and steak. Santé, a food and restaurant magazine, rated Bluestem the 2007 Restaurant of the Year.
WHAT TO ORDER: The brunch, which offers treats from biscuits and gravy to crispy chicken livers, is Rob’s favorite.
CAFÉ TRIO, 4558 Main St., Kansas City, MO 816-756-3227, www.cafetriokc.com
Recommended by Chef Linda Duerr. Linda is the executive chef at JJ’s Restaurant, which was rated by Zagat Survey as one of Kansas City’s top restaurants. Her culinary experience, which started in Boston and landed her in Kansas City, has garnered her respect and admiration from chefs nationwide. This lively midtown restaurant has a diverse menu with seafood, steak, and pasta options. Its live music, fun crowd, and friendly bar has garnered Café Trio numerous awards from local publications. Café Trio also has an adjoining Scarlet Lounge that serves wine, beer, and cocktails in a cozy setting. “It’s lots of fun,” Linda says. “There’s live music almost every night, and it has the most diverse crowd of any restaurant I have been in.”
WHAT TO ORDER: Linda says the pizza with shrimp, feta cheese, and bacon is her favorite dish.
FIORELLA’S JACK STACK BARBEQUE, 101 West 22 Street, 4747 Wyandotte Street, 816-472-7427, www.jackstackbbq.com
Recommended by Food Critic Lauren Chapin. Lauren began food critiquing in 2000 when she joined the staff at The Kansas City Star. She has won various awards and scholarships with her keen eye for good food.
Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbeque has been cooking some of the finest barbecue in Kansas City since 1957. With its hickory-fired brick ovens and spacious, renovated, and rustic restaurants, Fiorella’s will charm you with both food and character.
WHAT TO ORDER: Lauren says the Poor Russ, a sandwich with chopped burnt ends, is “killer.” She also recommends the cheesy corn and “really great” beans. For those who don’t like pork or beef, Fiorella’s also offers salmon and lamb.
JUSTUS DRUGSTORE, 106 West Main Street, Smithville, 816-532-2300, www.drugstorerestaurant.com
Recommended by Chef Michael Smith. Michael is the executive chef at Michael Smith Restaurant at Kansas City. He won the James Beard award for Best Chef Midwest in 1999 and served as a guest chef at the Finale Gala Dinner at the 2002 winter Olympics in Utah. This contemporary American cuisine restaurant, owned and operated by Chefs Jonathan Justus and his wife Camille Eklof, has an open kitchen, a small bar, and an outdoor patio for diners looking for great local food and ingredients. Justus Drugstore’s fame extends nationwide: It was featured in USAtoday as a fine place to dine in Missouri. Michael says this “great, little, simple restaurant” is one of his favorite places to eat.
WHAT TO ORDER: According to Michael, Justus Drugstore has tasty brandade, which is a smooth cream of mashed salt cod blended with olive oil and a little garlic, and great local pork. The menu also offers local goat cheese fritter salad and Campo Lindo chicken, which is raised at Campo Lindo family farms at Lathrop.
PO’S DUMPLING BAR, 1715 West 39th Street, 816-931-5991, posdumplingbar.com
Recommended by Chef Debbie Gold. Debbie is the executive chef at The American Restaurant at Kansas City. She has been cooking for more than twenty years in places as close as Chicago and as far away as Nice, France. Her greatest cooking success is winning the James Beard award for Best Chef Midwest in 1999 at The American Restaurant. Started by Po Hwang and his wife and chef, Ow, this Chinese restaurant offers a casual and cozy den with an array of dumplings and traditional Asian cuisine. Its Emperor’s Dumpling and shu-mai pork balls are the restaurant’s claim to fame.
WHAT TO ORDER: Po’s dinner menu offers traditional entrees such as lemon chicken, sautéed shrimp with edamame, and orange beef. Debbie enjoys the onion cake appetizer and the curry noodles along with the casual atmosphere and “high quality of food.”
ROOM 39, 1719 West 39th Street, 816-753-3939, www.rm39.com
Recommended by Chef Colby Garrelts. Colby is the award-winning chef at Bluestem at Kansas City. His restaurant has garnered a Zagat top rating from 2004 to 2008, and Colby was a nominee for the James Beard award for Best Chef Midwest in 2007 and 2008. The casual neighborhood restaurant, Room 39, supports local farmers and producers by putting locally grown food on its tables. The menu changes daily and seasonally and offers hearty and classical bistro-style café dishes.
WHAT TO ORDER: Colby enjoys the duck cassoulet, which can also be served with lamb and beans. “The food is hearty, and the chef is a local guy who uses all local ingredients,” Colby says.
THE BLUE HERON, One Heron Hill, 573-365-4646, www.blueheronpottedsteer.com
Recommended by Chef Chris McDonnel. Chris has spent more than twenty years cooking in New York, Switzerland, Arizona, Hawaii, and finally Missouri. Chris was named the Midwest Iron Chef Champion in 2002, and his restaurant, Chris McD’s, at Columbia has received awards for its delicious desserts and entrees. The romantic view and tasty European-influenced dishes are two reasons why folks dine at The Blue Heron in the Lake of the Ozarks. Situated atop Big Blue Heron Hill, the restaurant offers a panoramic view of the Lake of the Ozarks. “It’s a great, classy place for an evening with a date or your wife,” Chris says. “The food and service are also always consistent. It’s just a treat.”
WHAT TO ORDER: The Blue Heron offers a traditional battered, fried lobster tail along with chicken, pork, veal, lamb, and beef entrees. “They have wonderful steaks and shoestring potatoes,” Chris says. Chris also enjoys the family-sized salads, homemade salad dressing, and the “incredible” wine list.
HARUNO, 3044 South Fremont Avenue, 417-887-0077, www.harunosushi.com
Recommended by Chef Wing Yee Leong. Wing is the executive chef at Springfield’s cosmopolitan Fire & Ice Restaurant and Bar. He has been cooking since he was fifteen years old, gaining experience at his now-closed, family-owned restaurant, Leong’s Tea House, which made the original Springfield-style Cashew Chicken. After more than thirty years as a chef, Wing knows good food. Haruno is a hip, New York-style Japanese sushi bar and grill. Its stainless steel and blue décor provide a modern atmosphere, and light jazz Wednesdays through Saturdays adds intimacy to the small restaurant. Its bar also offers more than thirty types of sake.
WHAT TO ORDER: Wing enjoys the Haruno Roll, which is a California roll with yellowfin tuna and avocado on top. The Haruno roll is one of twenty-nine rolls patrons can get at the sushi bar. There are also pork, chicken, and beef entrees on the lunch and dinner menus.
ANNIE GUNN’S, 16806 Chesterfield Airport Road, 636-532-7684, www.smokehousemarket.com
Recommended by Chef Vincent Bommarito. Vincent is the executive chef at Tony’s at St. Louis. His “legendary" status as a great chef was cemented when he was named Nation Restaurant News’ 2001 Fine Dining Legend. He earned this prestigious award through twenty-five years of hard work .Annie Gunn’s American-style cuisine and “dark, club-like appearance” rank it as one of Vincent’s favorite places to eat. Nestled in The Smokehouse Market store, Annie Gunn’s brings both exotic and country-inspired foods that are locally grown. The atmosphere is casual, and Gunn’s prides itself on its “homeaway- rom-home” feeling.
WHAT TO ORDER: Vincent enjoys the smoked shrimp and the T-bone pork chop, but he insists everything is good.
BASIL SPICE THAI CUISINE, 3183 South Grand Boulevard, 314-776-1530, www.basilspicethai.com
Recommended by Chef Frazer Cameron. Frazer is the owner and chef at Frazer’s Restaurant and Lounge, which was rated on 10best.com as one of the top restaurants in St. Louis. Frazer has traveled all over the world as a tradesman in cooking and has finally brought his craft to Missouri. Basil Spice brings a touch of Thailand to St. Louis with fresh flavors and seafood, stir-fried, curry, and vegetarian entrees. Entree meats include shrimp, chicken, pork, and beef. The restaurant’s casual and simple dining experience attracts those who enjoy international food served in a comfortable atmosphere.
WHAT TO ORDER: Frazer recommends the vegetarian spice and the simple curry dishes with rice.
MAGGIANO’S LITTLE ITALY, #2 The Boulevard St. Louis, Richmond Heights, 314-824-2402, www.maggianos.com
Recommended by Chef Michael Mandato. Michael is the executive chef at The Grill Ritz- Carlton where he cooks classic American beef and fresh fish entrees with skill. He arrived in St. Louis from Canada where he was the chef at a hotel in Alberta. Michael’s cooking reached new heights when he served the Queen of England and Duke of Edinburgh during his stay in Canada. Maggiano’s offers Italian-American food ranging from pasta to chicken, steaks, veal, and chops, with a taste of Italy in its ingredients. WHAT TO ORDER: Although Michael has never found a dish that rivals his father’s, he says the linguini and clams at Maggiano’s are his favorite. “It’s a light dish with garlic, oregano, olive oil, and clams tossed with linguini and Parmesan cheese,” Michael says. “It is simple, tasty, and reminds me of home.”
MONARCH, 7401 Manchester Road, 314-644-3995,
www.monarchrestaurant.com Recommended by Chef Grace Dinsmoor. Grace is the chef at Modesto Tapas Bar and Restaurant at St. Louis. She has captured second in the best chef category for the last four years in St. Louis’s Sauce magazine. Her Spanish restaurant’s steak was called “one of the best in town” by St. Louis Post-Dispatch food critic Patricia Corrigan. Monarch offers international fare including French, Asian, and American Southwestern. It offers such a variety of dishes that it needs two menus: the haute cuisine dining room menu and the more casual bistro and wine bar menu. Specialties range from pork tenderloin and lamb chops to smoked salmon flat bread and wild mushroom ravioli. Monarch also offers a vegetarian menu.
WHAT TO ORDER: “I really like the spicy jalapeno-infused margaritas,” Grace says. She also recommends the roasted duck over plum sauce.
NICHE, 1831 Sidney St., 314-773-7755, www.nichestlouis.com
Recommended by Chefs Chris Desens and Christina Machamer. Chris is a chef at The Racquet Club Ladue at St. Louis. He was inducted in 2008 into the prestigious American Academy of Chefs for his contributions to the culinary profession. Christina won the grand prize on the reality television show, Hell’s Kitchen. Her reward was the executive chef position at London West Hollywood in California. Her national recognition combined with her Chesterfield roots make her a Missouri cuisine expert (see page 68). Offering both French and American cuisine, Niche serves entrees ranging from Roasted French Horn Mushrooms to local trout and appetizers such as Rabbit Liver Terrine and Fried Pigs Head. “It’s my kind of food,” Chris says. “It’s really straightforward and not over the top. It’s very well crafted.”
WHAT TO ORDER: Christina says her favorite dish is the vegetable risotto. Chris says everything is good, but the scallops with brown butter foam are delicious. He also recommends the fried brandade. “They really have respect for their ingredients,” he says with admiration.
SUNSET 44 BISTRO, 118 West Adams Avenue, Kirkwood, 314-965-6644, www.sunset44.com
Recommended by Chef Chris Kramer. Chris is the chef at Two Nice Guys Restaurant, ratedas one of the top restaurants in St. Louis by users on 10best.com. Chris became a cooking expert while working at the MU University Club and has three successful restaurants open in the Kirkwood area. Sunset 44 Bistro hopes to lure its hungry patrons with its unique American cuisine. Chris says the atmosphere is unpretentious and pleasant, and the chefs are special. “I like going to places where the chefs are tradesmen,” Chris says.
WHAT TO ORDER: Sunset 44 Bistro’s Pork Tenderloin with Cranberry Ginger Chutney was included in “Special Requests: 100 Favorite Restaurant Recipes from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.” The menu also offers seafood, pasta, and beef entrees.
TONY’S, 410 Market Street, 314-231-7007, www.saucemagazine.com/tonys/
Recommended by Chef Jason Mooney. Jason hones his cooking skills at Grand Cru at Columbia where he was born and raised. He has worked at Country Club of Missouri and Country Club of New Mexico, bringing taste and good food wherever he goes. Tony’s is the only restaurant in Missouri to receive the AAA Five Diamond Award for excellence in hospitality in North America. With the restaurant’s extensive collection of fine wines and its many awards lining the walls, Tony’s reminds customers what it means to dine in elegance.
WHAT TO ORDER: The steak is Jason’s favorite entrée because “the flavor is delicious.” He also enjoys the crab and lobster. Jason says all the food is “extremely fresh,” and he enjoys the quality service and the “extremely good wine selection.”
OCEANO BISTRO, 44 North Brentwood Avenue, 314-721-9400, oceanobistro.com
Recommended by St. Louis Post-Dispatch food critic, Joe Bonwich. Joe has been a food critic for more than twenty-five years, spending his last six years with the Post-Dispatch. In 2001, Joe was nominated for Best Food Critic in America by the James Beard Foundation. Oceano Bistro provides St. Louis with pure seafood and fresh fish, which is complemented with locally grown produce. The dining room, which Joe identifies as an “approachable” atmosphere, is lined with large windows. The bistro also has a patio and bar.
WHAT TO ORDER: Joe says the lemon sole stuffed with lobster is delicious and affordable. He also commends the “very well executed” entrees.