Sometimes you sit down at the table and know that you've come across something special. Kansas City's Bluestem Restaurant is such a place. Picked as Missouri's best restaurant in Business Insider's January 2016 The best restaurant in every state, Bluestem pairs stunning flavor combinations with spectacular service, and wraps it all in a charming yet unassuming atmosphere. We had the opportunity to spend the evening with them last Saturday. This is what we discovered.
Remarkable things lie behind that green door
You might not realize what you're walking into as you open the rather nondescript front door. The restaurant is smallish, unremarkably divided between a bar and dining area featuring one of the coolest wine storage walls I've ever seen. Remarkable attention to detail is all around from start to finish: a heavy slab of quartz awaits you like a placemat when you sit down, but is promptly taken away when the appetizer course is finished; a parade of wine glasses comes and goes to ensure you're always drinking from the glass most appropriate to your wine; each element in every dish is impeccably, beautifully arranged. The staff is hustling, but they stay cool at every turn. We found some of our fellow patrons to be a bit (not a lot) dressed down compared to what we'd wear to such a special place, which proved an odd comparison with the top tier meal (and price) that followed.
Adventures in food and wine
Your chefs clearly love to experiment with flavor, and they nail it every time. We were enthralled by the surprise appetizer of soubise custard with toasted oats, parsnip velouté with (among other things) toasted marshmallow, Meghan's choice of sea scallops and my choice of sturgeon, and the green tea custard and Meyer lemon cheesecake that we chose between for dessert. The wine pairing was a good call, wherein wine director Jeff visited our table at the start of each course to pour glasses of his hand selected match. There was not a poor selection in the lineup, though we would have made different choices for some courses. For example, we felt that the Nebbiolo paired with the ricotta capaletti and braised rabbit did not bring out the nice lemon in that dish the way, say, an Albariño would have performed. Similarly, we felt that a Grüner Veltliner would have been an excellent choice to cut through the quite rich velouté in the first course, which was instead paired with a Chablis.
That said, Jeff is amazingly knowledgeable and very quick on his feet. At one course we asked him what his second choice pairing had been (the runner up that didn't make it on the list), and he quickly switched gears to explain why he had chosen one over the other. He is passionate about this, and that passion shows in some of his really great pairings such as the Crozes-Hermitage Silene 2013, his outstanding compliment to some of the best ribeye we've ever had. The Muscadet poured alongside the sea scallops was equally amazing in spite of Meghan's personal disinclination towards Muscadet.
Two bottom lines
As is so often the price of greatness, the worst part of the night was the check. The service, food, and wine are worth every penny, but ordering only once in the beginning makes it very easy to be surprised at the end. This is definitely a place for special occasions. Make sure that you're prepared for the end game.
Bottom line here is that Bluestem offers a first rate, world class dining experience that headlines a venerable American city. Connoisseurs and experience seekers will delight in the cozy atmosphere, impeccable service, insanely knowledgeable staff, and adventure in flavor that awaits.