Webster House. Really? How? Why? What the..?
It all started with a Groupon. Are you doing the Groupon? Do you buy Groupons? You should. Elizabeth noticed one day, recently, that the Groupon of the day was $25 for $50 toward your dinner at Webster House. Coincidentally, her mom had been telling us it was an exceptional restaurant that we should try, so this gave us the perfect reason to do so.
I'll dote on the atmosphere and decor at Webster House more than in most of my reviews, simply because it lends such a huge influence on the dining experience there. Webster House is located at 17th and Wyandotte, directly south of the performing arts building under construction in that area. It's a towering Romanesque building built in the 19th century, originally used as a school. Today, first and foremost, it's an antique store. A great antique store with room after room of beautiful (and expensive) pieces. Oddly, walking in, we were greeted by a pleasant Securitas guard who asked us if we'd been to Webster House before and whether we were shopping or dining. Diners are sent upstairs.
On the north side of this hallway is an old world-feeling bar, very gentlemanly and tasteful. We were seated in a room on the south side of the hallway with large windows looking out over the crossroads, hardwood floors, and adorned with some of their beautiful antiques. It felt like we had stepped back in time 100 years, in a very good way. Start to finish, the experience of walking in and being seated felt luxurious and sophisticated. It did the perfect job of setting our expectations that the meal would be equally fantastic.
We'd looked at the menu online and found it to be fairly small. I have nothing at all against small menus - I tend to believe doing a few things really well is the more successful restaurant strategy than its alternative - but for a restaurant the caliber of WH, guessed that there would be several specials or seasonal dishes we'd only find out about once we were seated.
Not true. What we saw online is what we got. I'd have appreciated at least a couple specials, if only because I felt nothing on the menu had much originality to it. Diners may choose from one of eight entrees - one pasta (buccatini), three seafood selections (salmon, mahi, scallops), one poultry (chicken) or three red meats (two beef, one lamb). Simply put, I chose the mahi, she chose the scallops.
Our server was very helpful answering questions about the wine list. We both were in the mood for white with our seafood (having consumed a glass or two of red before we left the house). Elizabeth wasn't in the mood for sweet, so we immediately ruled out the riesling. The '07 Huia Sauvignon Blanc, according to the server, was what we were looking for. We took her advice and were not disappointed. Dry, highly acidic... it really got the juices flowing.
With our miniscule pre-dinner sips of wine, we each gleefully ravaged the heavenly breads that came served with three accompanying butters - pink sea salt, garlic and artichoke-infused and molasses. Our round balls of dough had an unworldly, almost crisp shell (no doubt a product of butter-basting that helped "sear" the outer edges of the dough as it cooked), protecting the pillowy soft center. Each butter was wildly different from the next, and from salt to artichoke to molasses, ate almost like a full meal - appetizer to dessert. Very clever and it certainly left an good impression.
The squash puree was fine, but without an herb accompaniment, was a little plain. Kinda like baby food. The spatzle was "fun", but in the puree and veal jus, quickly became saturated and soggy. I finished the whole thing but was glad to have it behind me.
My Mahi, like the veal cheek, found itself drastically out-shined by her wise selection. Placed in front of me was one of the saddest looking plates of food I had ever been served in a fine dining establishment. No color, no thought, no inspiration.
Mahi is a beautiful fish, lean and clean with a naturally sweet flavor. Mine, though, was cooked a little on the rare side, making it a little too slick for my taste. And too cool, temperature-wise. What had sold me on the selection, though, were the "duck fat potatoes". Frying things in duck fat is an avant garde little trick many restaurants around the country have employed for added cache, and I wanted to see what it was like. The answer: undetectable. These potato wedges - just two of them - contained no special flavor from the duck fat. Honestly, they left me wishing the side was a little spire of pommes frites, or even a green vegetable, as opposed to these flavorless starch sticks.
Overall, there was nothing on this plate to dislike on its own, but as a meal it left a lot to be desired, namely flavor.
Thank heavens for dessert. What could be disappointing about French toast bread pudding with maple ice cream, candied bacon and blueberries?
You're exactly right. Nothing.
Our little rectangular platter came beautifully decorated with a deep purple blueberry sauce and a few plump little blueberries, a round dollop of ice cream with a mild maple aroma and flavor, several crispy and sweet/salty chunks of bacon, with a delicious thin candied coating that made the positively "desserty."
Dessert was also enhanced by the two-person sized French press of Roasterie coffee we ordered to go with it. Deep and rich, both in color and flavor, it gave us the perfect pick-me-up after a dinner that left me still needing some satisfaction. The little French press and the antique kettle the cream was served in fit the establishment perfectly. Charming and beautiful.
There is a place for restaurants in KC like Webster House. It's a special occasions-only restaurant. And what it has going for it compared to other of KC's old-world, traditional places (The Savoy, for instance), is a touch of modernity in its menu. It's not a restaurant that time has passed by. It's like a vintage convertible roadster: pricey, but undoubtedly tasteful, a bit impractical but more special for that reason. We enjoyed ourselves there and I bet you will, too. If you like to take some time out of your life to enjoy the fine things in life.
Rating: two napkins