Why Jasper’s Still Belongs On The Kansas City Foodie Map| Jasper Mirabile

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Jasper Mirabile

Chef Jasper Mirabile Making Table Side Mozzarella

Last week, I wrote about The Boot, Kansas City’s newest Italian Restaurant.  I mentioned in that post that The Boot is “not your father’s Italian Restaurant.”  That is a very loaded phrase in a town where not much has changed on the menus at many of the premier Italian restaurants since I was ordering off of the kid’s menu.  Which is not to say that these are not great restaurants, but there is a very fine line between “traditional” and “predictable.”  What impressed me about The Boot was that they weren’t trying to be traditional.  What impresses me about Chef Jasper Mirabile is that he makes traditional anything but predictable.

If you are even remotely related to foodie events in town, you are familiar with Chef Jasper.  He is involved in nearly every group in town advocating sustainable, local, or slow food.  You may also know him from his radio show, television appearances, books, or cooking demonstrations.  Having myself been called “Kansas City’s Savviest Self-Promoting Server” by no less an authority than Charles Ferruzza, I can appreciate these efforts.  Chef Jasper Mirabile might have been our first local celebrity chef.  This is not always a compliment in my mind if you know my opinion on celebrity chefs.

So last night when I walked into Jasper’s, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.  By all appearances Jasper’s is a traditional Italian restaurant.  Not with the clichéd red and white checked table cloths, but with the distinct feeling of Italy.  From the paintings on the wall to the wine cellar on display, I never expected such a warm atmosphere inside having driven by the building many times.  The servers still wear traditional uniforms.  The restaurant was clean.  The dining room was not over crowded with tables.  The layout created a pleasant mixture of privacy and romance.

The menu at Jasper’s was traditional, but pre-dates many of the American-Italian standards that now are considered traditional.  I didn’t see a lasagna dish, although my girlfriend swears it was there.  I saw Berkshire pork and veal.  I would have happily agreed to any of the appetizers.  We had a lobster bisque that I would put against any soup I have ever tasted.  When you go, you have to order the tableside mozzarella.  Chef Jasper came over to the table and turned cheese curds into mozzarella right before our eyes.  Then he turned that into a delicious caprese salad that proved that he is hording ever ripe tomato in the city for himself.  He explains the entire process and the local origins of many of the ingredients.  He does all of this with his trademark passion and energy.  I imagine he has done this presentation thousands of times, but he does this with the excitement of a child having his parents watch him pop his first wheelie. 

My girlfriend has the Chicken Saltimbocca.  I was nervous to try this dish after serving it at too many Italian chain restaurants.  Now I know what they were shooting for.  The prosciutto worked wonderfully with the light sauce.  This was not a strange variation of a picatta sauce, this sauce tasted like it was scientifically engineered to make prosciutto taste even better (which I didn’t think was possible).  I had the Pork Osso Bucco.  This Berkshire pork shank was slow simmered to the point that it fell right off the bone.  The server delivered a steak knife with it, but I could have eaten it with a spoon.  In fact, I will attribute any grammatical errors in this post to the fact that I am anticipating my leftovers for lunch after I finish writing.

There will be leftovers from Jaspers and there should be.  You have to save room for a cannoli.  Going to Jasper’s and not having a cannoli is like going to the Trevi Fountain and not tossing in a coin.  This wasn’t something I was looking forward to because I had sworn off cannolis after eating far too many of the sugar stuffed treats.  Jasper’s cannolis were difference.  You taste the ricotta and the cinnamon.  The emphasis is on flavor and not gluttony.  These were so tasty that I had the second cannoli for breakfast this morning with my coffee.

I suppose that something should be said about the service at Jaspers since that is the focus of this blog.  Our server Anthony worked the room like he owned the place.  He joked with his tables, smiled at everyone who passed, and was spot on across the board.  The service was impeccable without being stuffy.  In a restaurant built on the core concepts of hospitality, Anthony personified them all.  It is tough to be a server in a restaurant with a dynamic owner on the floor that the guests came to see.  He worked the floor like an honorary Mirabile, and after this visit that is about the highest praise I can give.

I could write all day about the subtle nuances that make Jasper’s special.  It is not easy to impress me with service and hospitality.  I found myself taking notes on things I saw at Jaspers.  The food was incredible and the service was perfect.  There is something great about Jasper’s.  It is a sense of pride that you see in everyone working there.  It is a passion to do things the right way everytime.  That is the tradition that I wish more Italian restaurants would aspire to uphold.  It is tough to put your finger on what makes this restaurant so special, but it is something you owe to yourself to experience.  Do yourself a favor and make a reservation at Jasper’s, just save room for a cannoli.

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The Boot- Kansas City’s Newest Restaurant Is A Hit

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The Boot Westport Kansas City

Being in the restaurant industry leads you through a series of phases when you eat out.  When you first start out, you are constantly trying to learn from watching others.  This leads to critiquing the server constantly when you have a bit more experience.  Eventually, you realize that you have become incredibly annoying to the others at the table and stop doing this.  You learn to dismiss any missteps and become an incredibly understanding guest.  After 16 years in the business, I have reached a phase where I value one thing above all else in restaurants: consistency.

That why I have been eagerly anticipating the newest restaurant from Aaron Confessori and Richard Wiles.  The pair started Westport Café & Bar less than two years ago.  It has been one of my favorite restaurants since my first visit.  They have a modern approach to French cuisine that provides the flavors of Escoffier without the gluttony.  The freshness is apparent in every dish.  Even my most critical service industry and foodie friends are always open to this suggestion to end our deliberations of where to go for dinner.

In the last few months they opened a second concept.  Westport Street Fare is a welcome addition to the Kansas City food truck scene.  Offering tortas, burritos, tacos, and quesadillas in Westport is a solid business model.  In addition, they offer an amazing ramen noodles dish as a special most evenings.  They could have easily justified lowering their standards and made a fortune feeding drunken patrons of the local bars.  Instead they created in the back of a truck the best Mexican inspired food to be found between Ixtapa and Frida’s.  My sole complaint about Westport Street Fare is that it is only open Thursday-Saturday and has been temporarily closed to help open the new restaurant.  When they reopen for St. Patrick ’s Day, you can count on me being out front for a spicy pork torta and some house made ramen noodles.

This leads me to their newest venture.  Rumors have been circulating for months about the pair launching their third restaurant in under two years.  I have been eagerly anticipating this restaurant.  In all fairness, it was probably my incessant questioning that landed me an invite to the pre-opening trial run of The Boot last night.  The waiting was worth it and my anticipation was warranted.  The Boot is not your Father’s Italian restaurant.  There was no lasagna or fettuccine alfredo on the menu.  Instead it was a menu that would be more reflective of a modern Italian restaurant.  Interesting cuts of different meats prepared with the exceptional execution that has made their other restaurants shine.  With all entrees priced under $20, I was also pleasantly surprised at the value.

I would highly recommend the duck and the short ribs.  Both were outstanding dishes and prepared to absolute perfection.  I have never had duck that was as lean and as flavorful while remaining incredibly tender.  The short rib was tender and paired with the polenta it created a meal that found the perfect combination of filling without requiring a nap afterwards.  No one will find these portions overwhelming.  They are not meant to be split.  They are satisfying while allowing you the ability to indulge in some interesting starters.  The restaurant offers a variety of sausages and meatballs to begin your meal.  While I have never counted myself as a fan of either, I thought The Boot did both very well.

The only criticism I have ever encountered or had myself about Westport Café & Bar is that the service can be spotty.  I gather that this criticism has been heard and addressed by Aaron and Richard.  I have not encountered any service issues in my last several visits to Westport Café.  I was also impressed by the staff they have assembled for The Boot.  Looking around the room made it clear that they have gathered some of the top talent in Kansas City.  Sitting with three friends in the industry, we could almost list the resume of some of the servers.  This is a good sign for any restaurant. 

I have never aspired to be a food critic.  That would mean eating at too many bad restaurants.  I eat where I enjoy the food and know that it will be executed well.  If a restaurant does not impress me, I will not return.  If it does, I will return frequently with friends and recommend it often.  Even before The Boot, I ate at Aaron and Richard’s restaurants at least once a week.  I have a feeling it will be more often now.  The food is outstanding and the execution of the dishes is consistently exceptional.

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