The Restaurant at 1900: Elevated fare in a sleek setting

Lester Goldman’s bright abstracts adorn a wall of The Restaurant at 1900.

According to popular television, all success in the dining world rides on the shoulders of the chef. In the real world, a successful restaurant is a team effort, with equal attention paid to the food, the service, the drinks and the ambience. In the case of the new Restaurant at 1900, they assembled the varsity team, both in the front and back of the house.

The Restaurant at 1900 is destined to be a spot to see and be seen. Nestled in the newly renovated 1900 Building on Shawnee Mission Parkway, the Restaurant has built a dream team—executive chef Linda Duerr, a veteran of Lidia’s Kansas City, JJ’s and The River Club; general manager Keith Goldman, fresh from his long tenure at The American; and beverage director Doug Frost, master of wine and master sommelier.  Their powers combined have created a sleek, modern dining room with approachable yet elevated fare.

Open for lunch and dinner, Monday through Saturday, The Restaurant at 1900 is a bit hard to pin down because of a constantly rotating menu. Chef Duerr is committed to using what’s fresh and seasonal, both at home and around the country, as is evidenced by her impressively generous lobster rolls and the appearance of soft shell crabs on the midsummer menu. In my three visits, the menu has changed slightly each time, but I’ve managed to find a favorite no matter what the iteration.

The dining room is a great blend of sleek modernity and fanciful décor. Although the dining room trends toward muted tones of grays and whites, Lester Goldman’s bright abstracts adorn one wall and some of the late Rose Karbank’s favorite salt and pepper shakers brighten up inset cases along the walls. The most impressive aspect of the dining room is its balance of sound. It’s easy to converse but doesn’t feel like a library. One can easily imagine deals being inked over lunch and plans being laid along the marble bar after 8 p.m.

The cuisine matches the décor—it’s stylish but still satisfying. The lunch menu echoes the dinner menu offering a number of the same dishes on the main list, as well as adding protein to a few salads to make them heartier. The grilled French horn mushroom salad with grilled chicken was a beautifully light choice for lunch. Green grapes added a pop of sweetness to baby lettuces lightly dressed in a red wine vinaigrette and tossed with shaved fennel, spiced pine nuts and Cottonwood Reserve aged cheddar. Although the base is quite light, the perfectly moist chicken breast gave it a bit of heft and paired nicely with the meaty mushrooms.

For a more substantial lunch, the spinach artichoke and aged white cheddar grilled cheese sandwich is not to be missed. Finished with a porcini garlic jam, this is one of the most decadent grilled cheese offerings I’ve tasted in months. On toasted, buttery sesame semolina bread, it left no diet-busting box unchecked, as texture, richness and heartiness are all maxed out.

For dinner, choose from a creative list of salads, soups and small plates (the almond and chevre truffle salad with prosciutto and roasted beets was my favorite) or start your meal with one of the four pasta offerings. Either way, you’ll enjoy savory shortbreads as a complementary amuse buche first, buttery and crumbling and perfect. I was particularly impressed with the pasta options. On my first visit, I sampled the garganelli and spring lamb Bolognese, which obliterated any expectation of a pedestrian, heavy Bolognese. Instead, this spring pasta incorporated sultanas, mint and sheep’s milk yogurt. The combination of herbs and sweetness created a feather light plate bursting with fresh flavor.

But even that inspired Bolognese couldn’t compete with the fire-roasted tomato orzotto with steamed littleneck clams. Bits of crispy pork belly added richness but it was truly the fire-roasted tomatoes that came through, offset by chilies and roasted garlic. It’s a dish that perfectly speaks to peak tomato season, as it would have failed spectacularly with subpar tomatoes, but in this instance they sang with tanginess. And it’s to the dish’s credit that the delicate flavor clams were not overwhelmed with such a spate of strong aromatics sharing space.

Main plates on the dinner menu offer diversity. Of course, you can get a beef rib eye with a spicy XO veal jus sauce but you can also choose a mezze plate full of falafel, roasted baby root vegetables and wood-fired eggplant puree. Having disparate options, both in price and cuisine is refreshing. And yes, you can get that grilled cheese on the dinner menu.

I opted for slow cooked veal breast. Served atop a generous pile of gold potato and turnip latke (freeform), with grilled white asparagus and dotted with veal demi-glace, this dish was rich and decadent. While it promised crispy skin, this was the only failing. Instead of the crackle of pork skin, the veal skin was a bit wan but the tender softness of the meat and fat underneath more than made up for it. The component that made the dish though was the compressed rhubarb. The tangy bright morsel not only livened up the aesthetics of the plate but provided the perfect palate cleanser between bites.

Pastry chef Elizabeth Paradise is making sure that dessert matches up to the main courses in creativity. The bay leaf panna cotta was a surprise—the often overlooked herb came through subtly but couldn’t be missed either. Topped with rhubarb compote and deliciously crunchy candied pistachios, it was an elegant upgrade to the standard crème bruleé. For a lighter ending yet, the sorbet trio knocks it out of the park with a beautifully tangy passion fruit sorbet, soft apricot and a raspberry-rosé made with the house rosé from Les Bourgeois in Rocheport, Mo.

That delightful rosé is the product of Mr. Frost. In fact, the entire wine list is eclectic and well rounded with a large number of wines by the taste or glass. And while he’s no slouch in the spirits department, he also allows his staff to shine. Bar manager Arturo Vera-Felicie’s staff turns out new cocktails all the time on a menu that evolves as quickly as the dinner menu does. A few spirit-free options grace the menu, such as the Passion Fruit Fizz. But if you want to be dazzled, order the Green Parrot.

Named for the restaurant that once resided in the building from the 1920s to the late 1950s, this cocktail is as visually stimulating as it is tasty. Blending rum with Aperol, passion fruit, lime, blue Curacao and pimento bitters, the Green Parrot is bright, tangy and sweet without being cloying. A generous sprig of mint refreshes the aroma but doesn’t permeate the tropical fruit flavors. Mingling alongside the mint are edible flowers and a dehydrated blood orange. It’s colorful and vibrant, the perfect drink to start any meal.

The Restaurant at 1900 is poised to become a go-to for any occasion—business lunch or evening. Service, while extremely friendly can be leisurely in pace, which might lend itself more to dinner, but I expect that those issues will iron themselves out with continued service. In all, the Restaurant at 1900 is a welcome addition to the scene. It’s good to see so many tenured faces working together as a team to create beautiful dining experiences once again.

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