The latest offering from Bread & Butter Concepts is reinventing the cow
When you think of fresh, seasonal fare, a steakhouse typically doesn’t come to mind. And yet, ensconced beyond the dark wood and tufted upholstery of the dining room at Stock Hill is a scratch kitchen interpreting the flavors of each season and presenting them with the polished precision one would expect in a similar institution in New York or Chicago.
One might say that a steak-centric concept in Kansas City is nothing new, but the latest offering from Bread & Butter Concepts is reinventing the cow a bit. With Joe West as the chef at the helm, Stock Hill is a steakhouse with a twist. The steaks may be the namesake, but they are just one reason to come in and treat yourself.
West has had a bit of a rollercoaster year professionally. After severing ties with restaurateur Eric Borger before their planned joint venture, Komatsu/Kusshi, West was snatched up by Alan Gaylin, Bread & Butter Concepts CEO. West says that he was encouraged to be adventurous with the menu. In Bread and Butter, he has found a cheerleader for his creative bent.
West had plenty of time to develop this menu over the summer while the build-out for the restaurant was completed. When it opened last December, diners found a sleek, polished dining room worthy of the most liberal of expense accounts and a bar that welcomes both the pre-dinner crowd and the more casual patrons that are merely stopping by for a drink.
The winter menu focuses on hearty fare. Wagyu beef, the American version of Kobe, as well as more regionally sourced beef, courtesy of Halpern’s, which finds the best beef in the area, both wet- and dry-aged, comprise the steaks. Steaks are offered sans side dishes, which are family-sized. Two rubs are optional, either coffee or porcini mushroom, and for a few dollars more, you can ‘stock it’ by topping with house bacon, blue cheese and walnuts.
Beyond the steaks, the menu takes a more creative turn. West has a knack for taking the expected and giving it a bit of wink. For example, the shrimp cocktail is anything but standard here.
Instead, each shrimp is presented with its own pipette of cocktail sauce, leaving the diner with the option to inject the sauce into the shrimp or on top. The appetizer list features so many tempting options—from chicken lollipops to seared foie gras with preserved local cherries to burrata with olive-oil preserved Crum’s heirloom tomatoes—that just choosing the first course can be a weighty decision.
In West’s world, the hamachi crudo starter comes out looking like nachos if Picasso dressed the plate. The plate was painted with black sesame paste, creating a flavorful, beautiful backdrop for the cloud of crispy rice papers. Rice papers were topped with delicate hamachi, scallion miso vinaigrette and yuzu aioli. Sprinkled with fresh, thinly sliced peppers and scallions, each bite paired the delicately crunchy texture with an orchestra of flavors. It was a superb start to a delectable meal.
Stock Hill’s several salad and soup options range from light to hearty. The SH Salad is composed of butter lettuce, goat cheese and compressed apples tossed with a Champagne vinaigrette. For something heftier, the quinoa salad blends goat cheese, arugula and watercress with apricot, autumn pears, puffed grains and grilled onion in a basil-orange vinaigrette.
The Wagyu rib-eye with the porcini rub, cooked to medium rare was a worthy entree. Even if one normally disdains steak sauce, the Armagnac and green peppercorn sauce, selected from four options, adds another level of flavor to the meat. The porcini-rubbed rib-eye was perfectly cooked but was slightly salty. The sauce cut the salt and imparted a rich, peppery bite to each morsel.
With options like hen-of-the-woods mushroom risotto, mascarpone polenta and Robuchon whipped potatoes, the selection of sides is winter-hardy. West says that once the seasons change, the menu will as well, and vegetables at the peak of freshness will take center stage.
When in a steakhouse, order a potato, right? This is especially true when Robuchon whipped potatoes are on offer. A homage to nationally known chef Joël Robuchon, this version bears little resemblance to Midwest mashed potatoes. Fingerling potatoes are cooked in the skins, riced and then dehydrated only to be rehydrated with whole milk and butter right before service. The result is a velvety pool of buttery potatoes. The word decadent certainly applies.
While steak is certainly front and center at Stock Hill, the non-steak offerings are just as delicious and arguably more innovative. Pork shank osso buco, rack of lamb, a veal porterhouse or diver sea scallops all tempt. There is even a vegetarian sunchoke tortellini.
Short ribs make two appearances on the menu, as an appetizer and a main dish. The Akaushi short-rib entrée is a coffee-crusted short rib with a luscious lacquer finish and meltingly tender meat.
Perched atop a pile of wild rice, dotted with smoked beet purée, bourbon smoked raisins and cannellini bean purée; this was a beautifully composed dish that balanced savory and sweet.
Finishing off a meal like this is a tricky thing. Too heavy of a dessert and you risk regret. Too light and it can seem like an afterthought. Kelly Conwell, the executive pastry chef, has assembled a collection of desserts that lands squarely in the middle. The butter pecan bowl is fashioned with perfect dollops of whipped cheesecake topped with caramel, coffeecake crumble and brown-butter graham cookie—a deconstructed dessert without being too fussy about it. And the cheesecake was so light and fluffy that it didn’t overwhelm an already sated palate.
Of course food is only one component to any restaurant and the bar at Stock Hill holds its own. The cocktail list, set by the beverage director for Bread and Butter Concepts, Scott Tipton, has a masculine feel without being overbearing. Whiskey features prominently, with gin sneaking into a few signature drinks. Old Fashioneds, Manhattans and martinis round it out. The wine list is extensive but not overwhelming—good because Stock Hill does not offer corkage.
Two of the standout cocktails featured whiskey, the Fat Albert and the Smoking Hill. The Fat Albert has a description that will grab anyone’s attention—it’s made with bacon fat-washed Four Roses Bourbon along with orange juice, apricot, maple syrup and egg white. Add a dash of Angostura bitters and as the be-vested bartender told a guest, you have breakfast in a glass.
The Smoking Hill is a perfect balance of sweet and smoky. Templeton Rye, Mathilde cassis, mint and lemon are served over a flawlessly clear block of hickory-smoked ice. It looked like a gimmick but tasted like a late afternoon in the fall with a book in hand.
Overall, Stock Hill bridges the prestige of a classic steakhouse with the quirky local-centric sensibility of a neighborhood restaurant. Definitely many a business lunch will be expensed here, but it also will be a home for regulars eager to see what West will do throughout the culinary seasons. It’s the best of both worlds for a cowtown that has turned into a culinary capital of the Midwest.