Sunday, September 8, 2013

Dining In Denial at Michael Smith

Despite my best efforts to evade or outright deny its existence, my birthday made its annual return to defiantly remind me that I am indeed a year older. The birthday also set out to not-so-gently remind me that despite the growing list of aging-related issues I increasingly face (aches, pains, brain fog, cynicism and a general foulness in nature), it will return again next year with an even greater vengeance. I replied to Fate with a hearty “Harrrumphh”, blew it a raspberry, and marched on to my favorite comfort zone when (somewhat) bitterly facing one’s own mortality: a fabulous restaurant.

The ever-generous K-Man took me to local culinary wonderland Michael Smith in the Crossroads district for my birthday dinner last week. I have long watched Smith, a local James Beard- award winning chef’s accomplishments from afar, as he made his indelible culinary mark on Kansas City first with the American Restaurant and then with his two uber-popular hotspots: Extra Virgin, a tapas eatery, and the namesake Michael Smith where we were dining this night. We had dined in this very spot years ago when it was called Zin where we dined on foie gras and lavender cocktails on a First
Fridays eve before we attended a Dolly Parton concert. Lo, these many years later, the space is more airy and bright with vivid artwork and a very cool glassed-in cookbook display. Our server suggested a lovely bottle of white from the extraordinary wine list, a Paul Hobbs Crossbarn Chardonnay that we sipped on as we admired our surroundings. In fact, wine is featured heavily in the d├ęcor; gorgeous glass walls of seemingly endless bottles of vino make for a striking background to the dining room. We nibbled on our amuse bouche (gift from the chef) which was a tomato aspic with balsamic. Tomato aspic is essentially a vegetable jelly that is a 50’s throwback and by description not exactly a tantalizing temptation for me, but I found myself enjoying the fresh tomato flavor together with the balsamic. Our genial server brought our starter; lightly breaded Squash Blossoms that were stuffed with a wonderful mozzarella served with white Spanish anchovies and a tangy tomato-basil sauce that we made short work of. We savored our entrees even more: for K, an Eight-Hour Pork Roast that melted apart when cut atop flavorful green onion risotto and Jaliscan pico de gallo; for me the colorful Grilled Hawaiian Swordfish, perfectly cooked in a bright and fresh yellow tomato sauce with toasted garlic, couscous and peach salsa. Swordfish was greatly overfished in the late 1990s and was MIA for a long decade while getting restocked and indeed I had missed it so. That first taste of swordfish many moons ago (the Morgantown, WV restaurant I worked at during college had a dish I treasured called Swordfish
Acapulco) had me hooked and I have loved and craved swordfish ever since. This dish at Michael Smith just feels masterful; simply well done with the freshest of ingredients. I adored every bite and wouldn’t let the plate go until I had sopped up every bit of that wonderful sauce with the crusty bread.

We finished our evening splitting the airy yet decadent flourless chocolate cake. We sighed in
satisfaction as we left and couldn’t wait to come back. This culinary celebration was a perfect way to face Fate and say WTF.


Lisa Mandina said...

The food at those places is a bit too weird/tiny helpings for me. But it seems like the place a culinary lover like you would really enjoy! Happy birthday!

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