Saturday, November 6, 2010

Webster House

We did what any self respecting middle aged (well I'm middle aged, Stella's quite young) Johnson County couple would do. We saw a restaurant on public television and went to eat there the next night. In this case we went to Webster House (1644 Wyandotte, KC, MO) the night after it was featured on one of our favorite shows "Check, Please".

We used their handy dandy online reservation system found on their website around 5 PM to secure a reservation at 6:30. I'm not entirely sure that was necessary because the Webster House is quite large and was probably just a little more than half full, but Stella doesn't like to take any chances. We had a little bit of trouble figuring out where the dining room was because the first floor of the converted school house was an antique store the likes of which you might find in a higher end hotel, it kind of reminded me a couple of shops in the Fairmount in San Francisco. We finally found a flight of stairs that led us to the dining room. We were seated in a dining room adjoining the kitchen, which I wouldn't really recommend unless you really like hearing the expediter say things like "fire the scallops for 54" or "truffle fries up for 29". But sitting there did have one perq which I'll get to later.

Pretzel Rolls with 3 types of butter
Truffle fries and Long Strange Tripel
We sat down and perused the wine list while waiting for our lovely waitress, Tina, to get to us. She was having a little trouble keeping up with the 4 top next to us with a couple of UMKC professors (one of which looked just like Jeff from "Flipping Out") and their wives. I'm just speculating but they were drinking iced tea like they were high on E. Tina, quite frankly, was getting a little tired of filling up their tea glasses. I was a little disappointed in the selection for wines by the glass. Stella and I have pretty different tastes in wine, I like dry reds and she likes sauvignon blancs mostly, so we typically each get a wine by the glass. But, Webster House only has about 12 wines by the glass to choose from (ranging in price from $9 - $14). Stella was able to find a chardonnay ('06 Markham Chardonnay from Napa) that Tina thought was a great choice (and turned out to be, in fact, a great choice). I decided to skip wine once I noticed the availability of the 4 Boulevard Smokestack beers priced at $10 each which is a great bargain in a restaurant assuming you get a whole bottle. You do get a whole bottle and I really enjoyed my 750 mL of Long Strange Tripel.

We started with an appetizer of truffle fries to go along with the complimentary pretzel bread with 3 butters; a sea salt butter, shallot and artichoke butter and molasses butter. The sea salt butter went wonderfully with the pretzel bread, the sea salt making the bread seem just like eating a pretzel at a Wizards game. The shallot and artichoke butter was much better than I expected with a nice taste of shallot with just a touch of artichoke (which I don't really care for). And the molasses butter reminded me of eating an Auntie Anne's cinnamon sugar pretzel with caramel dipping sauce, but much less sweet. Honestly, I could have eaten a couple more pretzel rolls with butter for dinner and walked out of Webster House a pretty happy dude. The truffle fries came to our table mere seconds after they were announced done by the chef in the kitchen and nearly scalded Stella's tongue when she popped one in her mouth immediately. The fries were marvelously fried, crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside. Truffle oil was barely present, if at all. And they were sprinkled with parmesan cheese, of which I'm not a huge fan. The fries were better than 90% of the fries you're going to eat, so I'm not saying they're bad, but I think I'll go with another appetizer next time we go.

Short ribs
The meal was nicely paced and Stella and I had plenty of time to talk and look around. I took some time trying to figure out what the room we were in was when it was a schoolhouse. It very clearly was too small to have been a classroom, which 2 of the other dining rooms clearly were. Our room was more like a hallway with 2 original archways. It could have been a small study room. I just couldn't figure it out. The kitchen was about the same size as the room we were in and had a little counter with 4 seats facing it that I thought were for individual diners, which is a nice touch for traveling businessmen, especially since Webster House is just a couple blocks from Bartle Hall. But, I found out I was mistaken, the little counter was a chef's table. You can sit at the chef's table and have him prepare you a 4 or 5 course meal for $30 tailored to your tastes. All the while, you get to talk to the chef since he's right in front of you. All you have to do is call and reserve your time. I dare say a better $30 can't be spent for dinner and entertainment. The couple of plates I saw the chef serving the couple partaking were quite large and sounded wonderful. They were mostly a reimagining of already existing menu items using components from many dishes on the menu. Stella and I will be doing this very soon.

Defeated by the short ribs, I had to let this hunk go
For my entree, I chose the beef short rib. Short ribs are a new love of mine, they combine 2 things I love, steak and ribs. The short rib is a substantial hunk of meat like a steak only it's really tender like a delightfully smoked rib. Plus, they're slow braised which fills them full of flavor. The Webster House short rib is braised in a red chili braise that infuses the meat with just a little bit of spice. The rib is served on top of a warm jalapeno polenta cake that kind of looked like a little corn bread ciabatta. From my first bite, I was in love. I was able to cut my short rib with my fork, pull out a little bit of polenta and dip it into the cold tomatillo sauce drizzled on the plate. The combination of flavor was delightful, just a hint of spicy heat, corn sweet and wonderful, wonderful tender beef with a nice roasted meat crust. I don't think you can get a steak with 20% of the flavors of those short ribs. I was really glad I didn't eat a second pretzel roll because I wanted to fill my belly with a much of the meat as I could. I had quite a challenge in front of me; 2 large chunks of meat, a pretty big chunk of polenta and at least 500 mL of Long Strange Tripel. My next 30 minutes was set. The only fault on the plate was the absence of a larger amount of the braising liquid.

Diver Scallops
Stella got the seared diver scallops for her entree. This was a much more manageable amount of food to eat with 4 scallops with a little beet and endive salad accompanied by a butternut squash risotto and a toasted parmesan cream. I'll be honest, I didn't think it looked that great. The risotto was a light green color and the scallops just looked overcooked and chewy. Looks can be deceiving. The scallops were perfectly cooked and seasoned. The risotto was perfect in flavor. Stella didn't leave a bit of food on her plate. I was not successful in finishing mine. I finally had to throw in the napkin with 4 or 5 good bites to go. It was a shame to let it go.

Best caramel corn ever
We were too late to get over to Elbow to get some chocolates for First Friday so we decided to have dessert there. Stella was stuck between 3 choices, German chocolate cake (I told her I wouldn't eat any of it, I don't like German chocolate cake because I don't like coconut..or Germans), Almond cake or caramel corn which is modestly named "The Best Caramel Corn Ever" on the menu. After consulting with Tina, our waitress, Stella decided on the caramel corn. I'm glad she did because it was the best caramel corn I've ever had. Admittedly, this is a weird thing for a restaurant to be really great at, but, at least you don't have to go to the Sedgwick county fair in Kansas or some such place to get the best caramel corn ever. You can just go to downtown KC. Each piece of popcorn was perfectly popped and coated with caramel. Then there were some peanuts, cashews and 2 pecans included. The pecans were so good we were very aware of how many there were. If there were 4 pecans in our serving of caramel corn, this whole post would have been about the caramel corn. The pecans were that good.

Webster House isn't a hip place, I don't think there was anyone under 30 in the place. It's not the most cutting edge restaurant in town. It's not the coolest place in town to be. But, it's a great place to spend an hour and a half or two hours eating a wonderful meal and drinking wonderful wine and beer. The small imperfections in our meal such as not enough truffle in the fries, not enough gravy on the short ribs, not being able to find the dining room are just that, very small imperfections. We enjoyed impeccable service, wonderful food and most of all a good time. Webster House is a treat that is quite unique in Kansas City and should experienced by everyone in town at least once and is a great destination for the downtown traveler to KC.


Zach said...

Glad to hear the dining experiance there is good. My Aunt and Uncle got Married at the Webster House and I remember the food they catered being good.

Donna said...

I love reading about your eating-out escapades. As a person who thinks Olive Garden is high-class and who won't go anywhere to eat if I can't wear jeans, at least I can dine out vicariously with you and Stella.

Bull E. Vard said...

Donna, we wore jeans. Well, at least I wore jeans. I don't remember what kind of pantswear that Stella was wearing.

Erin said...

When I had Mr. Perfect guess how much the chef's 4 course dinner was, he low balled it at $50 and laughed out loud when I told him it was only $30

Bull E. Vard said...

I know, it's ridiculously cheap. We spent around $30 each and only shared the appetizer and dessert. Everywhere else I've seen a chef table it's been over $60 each. A bigger deal should be made of this.

Anonymous said...

you don't like artichokes or parmesan cheese?????

Bull E. Vard said...

I don't like parmesan cheese on french fries. Your stuck with a conundrum, can I dip these in ketchup? You wouldn't combine parmesan and ketchup unless you're a Jewish mom making pizza so but you would dip a french fry in ketchup (btw, it's Heinz 57 at Webster House served in a nice little bowl). It just strikes me as a problem I'd rather not have. Artichokes are just meh and have a weird texture.

Anonymous said...

ok, that i can live with - no parm on the fries. now, that artichoke problem....I dunno. order the grilled artichoke at houston's (not on the menu) - pull the leaves and dip = heaven.

Bull E. Vard said...

I've never had the artichoke at Houston's. But, I've had it that way at Garozzo's. Stella loves it there. You may want to try it.

Dan said...

Great write-up. I've mostly been there for lunch, and it's been good, but not nearly as wonderful as what you describe.

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Adam Smith said...

Dinner with Delicious food!! great time and love it.

Harry said...

Oh! Your blog made me hungry! Good to about such the service. Thanks for sharing the post.

cleininger said...

If you thought it was odd that people were guzzling iced tea then you clearly haven't had their iced tea. You must. I think it might be brewed with the actual tears of Jesus. It is crazy delicious, an Earl Grey blend that supposedly is made for them specifically. I have problems actually relating to anyone or anything thing going on around me when I drink it. The entire building could collapse around me and I doubt I would notice.